Monday, 24 April 2017

A Cheeky Chancel

Reflecting on the news from last month that a parishioner had accused the vicar of Maulden Church of installing surreptitious children's furniture.  And pondering the concept of a "cheeky" beer or - as is most often quoted - Nando's. Where someone has fitted in a sneaky food or alcohol-based treat that they shouldn't.

What terms should we give to those church improvement features that the minister has slipped into the building without the powers that be knowing? Here are some suggestions.
A Dodgy Doge

A brazen building project
A cheeky underfloor heating system
A clandestine clerestory
A covert communion table
A crafty carpet
An insolent installation of a toilet in the bell tower
Some mischievous misericords
A naughty nave
A quick quire-sacking
A saucy ailse
A secret monstrance
A shadowy pew-removal
A sneaky transept
A subversive east-facing altar
A surreptitious children's corner
An unannounced altar rail
An undercover undercroft
An unexpected Asparagusfest
An unverified coffee bar
A well-publicised modernism

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Defending a Traditional Marriage Stance

GafCon plan to put in a flying bishop in the United Kingdom to defend a "Traditional Marriage Stance."

I have no idea what a traditional marriage stance is. Presumably it's the pose traditionally-married blokes, in socks, shirt and pants, take at the end of the bed, while their traditionally-married wives reassure themselves that the measure of our lives is three score and ten. Or maybe four score if we have the strength.

Some More Things You Don't Want to Hear in a Sermon

"Fourthly"

"Which takes me back to the days when I worked in that doily factory."

"God loves a cheerful giver. Which brings me onto the subject of the state of the organ."

"And if God is the vodka, and Jesus is the tonic, then the Holy Spirit is in a very real sense the ice."

"So go and talk to someone you don't know very well....."

"I think it would help if I translated from the original Aramaic."

"Six points in closing."

"So what three things have we learnt about resisting impure thoughts? Randolph - come and tell us what will help you,"

"Turns out the Rapture was last night. I'm as surprised as you are."

"When understanding this very tricky point in theology I always think it's best to consider the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics."

"This illustration probably is easier to understand if you have watched all the episodes of "Terry and June." Especially that classic half hour where Terry wants to be an author."

"And then on the Tuesday we went to the ruins at Akrotiri."

"Of all the quotations I love from Karl Barth, maybe this one...."

"I don't normally talk about my operation but I do feel that, when preaching on Deuteronomy 23:1, it may have some relevance."


St George's Day is Every Day

So I was all set to celebrate the St George's Day service today. Got the dragon costume for Burton Dasset to wear. And set Charlii up with the lance with which Burton was terribly hurt last year. I love tradition. And the Beaker version of the story, in which St Georgina tells the hapless princess that she's a victim of patriarchy, sitting around waiting to be rescued, and should kill the dragon herself, is always a triumph.

But then a vicar on Twitter told me it was tomorrow.

So instead of holding it today we're going to hold it on the Sunday nearest the 23rd April, like we always do.

Which is today.

Now I just wish I could remember which book of the Bible the story of St George is in.

Does the Church of England still think it's Shakespeare's birthday? Or does that get transferred too?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Folding Pastoral Cycle

Brilliant new bike I've bought for when in London.

It folds up, and it's really handy for cycling from declining congregations to thriving churches where everybody smiles and all the leaders wear chinos.

That's right.

It's a Brompton.
By Jim.Henderson - Own work, Public Domain,

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Welcome Notice

Hello!

Delighted to have you drop in! Please try and shove a couple of quid in the money chest. All major currencies are accepted although , f you must donate sterling, can you also drop a few Euro cents in. We're hedging against an SNP-LibDem-UKIP coalition.
Please note there are no valuables left in the church. The last vicar made off with all the silver.

Harmonium

Please do not play tunes on the fine 19th century harmonium. You'll only upset Elsie. 50 years she's been playing hear on Sundays and we're yet to recognise a hymn.

Postcards

If you want to pay for postcards - yes we know they're dog eared. If you'd hung around this damp  building for years so would you be. Have you seen the vicar? Sorry state

Guest Book

There's a guest book on the postcard stand. Feel free to leave us a note. But out of courtesy, and to help us with our fundraising and communications, could you follow a few guidelines.

Keep your handwriting neat. Some people's writing looks like a spider has fallen in an ink blot and staggered across the book. And that does occasionally happen. The biro's unreliable and we've some big spiders.

In the column that says "Address" please put your address. Not some comments about your feelings on entering the building. "Peaceful" may well be a place in the United States for all I know. But without a Zip code it's just a feeling. And we're not really interested in your feelings.

If you are from Abroad please enter your full name and address. This is definitely because we want to keep you in touch. I cannot stress enough that we don't have a team of international jewel thieves, specialising in houses whose owners are away. Definitely not.

Bats

Don't be disturbed if you hear scratching from the bats living in the roof space. They will almost certainly not  fly down en masse and cling on your face, biting and scratching in a blood frenzy. Honestly, it's been weeks. You might want  to use an umbrella. That's to avoid droppings. And very rarely to keep the bats at bay while feral badgers invade the church and chew your shoes.  Note that bats are protected species. So should you succeed in killing one, can you stick it in the chute marked "solid fuel". Costs a fortune heating this place.

Spirits

If you sit in any of the pews, don't be surprised if the ghost of a former parishioner appears to tell you it's their pew. If you've accidentally sat in Norm Lyvington's seat, please note the box on the pillar, bearing the message "break glass for exorcist." If you're lucky you'll be able to get help before you find yourself unaccountably complaining about the repeal of the Corn Laws.

Green Men and Gargoyles

You will find a number of fascinating grotesques and other images around the place. If you see one with a spectacularly ugly face and wide-open mouth, that's Major Dumpling. Just beat him away with one of the bat umbrellas.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Last Rites of Spring (this year)

A lovely map from i100 of the ways different languages say the word that means "Easter".

You will notice that all the countries around the Mediterranean - the place where Easter was first celebrated, use a word that approximates to "Pascha" - coming from "Passover".

You may also be aware that the earliest celebrations of the feast were in the Mediterranean world, and no later than the 2nd century.

You will note that as the English used the word "Lent" from Anglo-Saxon - which was a month name meaning "Opening up"  - so they used the word "Easter" - which was also a month name.

There is only one logical conclusion.

The early Church adopted a pagan festival from Germany. They then completely removed all clues that it was pagan by attaching it to a fictitious story about a man being executed - and unexpectedly rising from the dead. They further removed its pagan clues by changing its name from that of a pagan goddess to that of a Jewish festival that fell at the same time.

They then further covered things up by decreeing that nobody was to mention Eostre's hare / rabbit for 1,000 years. They kept the eggs, though. Because once they'd kept quiet about the rabbit they knew nobody would guess where the eggs came from.

And that is how a totally pagan feast, with a totally pagan timing, became the central feast of the Christian faith. Christians. eh? They'll believe anything.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Venerable Bede Discovers Eostre

Bede: So, these wild Anglo-Saxon months! Blood month; First Yule; Second Yule; Holy Month! But what does "Eostre-month" mean?

First Angle: Erm.... it's named after something...

Bede: Sounds like "East". Is it named after the East?

Second Angle: Maybe. But - if we say it's just named after the East, that's pretty dull, ennit?

Bede: True. Hardly an exciting mythological explanation. Just because it's the time of the year when the sun rises in the due East....  Can you give me something a bit more mystical and pagan?

First Angle: Some kind of goddess?

Bede: Like it. Like it.  What's she like?

Second Angle: Ooo! I know! She's fond of rabbits!

First Angle: Or maybe of lagomorphs in general?

Bede: I don't want to be splitting hares...

First Angle: Even today, in the 8th Century AD, that is not a new joke, Ven.

Bede: Fair do's. So she's the goddess of the dawn. And of rabbits.

Second Angle: Rabbits that lay eggs.

Bede: WHAT!!!!!

First Angle: Well, she is a goddess. Surely rabbits can lay eggs?

Bede: No idea. How do rabbits produce other rabbits?

Second Angle: Has anyone invented that joke about...

First Angle: Yes.  Like rabbits. Brilliant. .We all know it.

Second Angle; OK. Well, she's got egg-laying rabbits, and Austria will be named after her.

First Angle: And the hormone oestrogen

Second Angle; And Estragon, in "Waiting for Godot". 

First Angle: And the supermarket, "Asda".

Bede: You're just making this up, aren't you?

First Angle: Well, you started it...

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Grim Inevitability of Death

Sad news from Italy, where the oldest human being on the planet, Emma Morano, has died. 117 years of age. Whenever the oldest person dies - which is, after all, quite frequently, what with them being old - we hear about their advice on how to live a long life. "Her doctor for 27 years, said Morano rarely ate vegetables or fruit. “When I first met her she ate three eggs a day, two raw in the morning and then an omelette at noon, and chicken at dinner.”"

Well no wonder she died, with that kind of diet.

There's a grim inevitability about death. You read the accounts of the patriarchs in the book of Genesis: you know, the ones that lived for five or six hundred years, long enough to beget the next in line and other sons and daughters - and then it always says "and then he died." Drives it in. Even the mythical heroes of the past, who lived great long lives, are dead.

There's a scene early in the sit com series, Red Dwarf. Dave Lister has been awoken from suspended animation - all the other crew having died in a radiation leak on their space ship. And the computer, Holly, is trying to persuade Lister that everyone else has died, but Lister can't get it: 


Lister: Where is everybody, Hol?
Holly: They're dead, Dave.
Lister: Who is?
Holly: Everybody, Dave.
Lister: What, Captain Hollister?
Holly: Everybody's dead, Dave.
Lister: What, Todhunter?
Holly: Everybody's dead, Dave.
Lister: What, Selby?
Holly: They're all dead. Everybody's dead, Dave.
Lister: Peterson isn't, is he?
Holly: Everybody is dead, Dave.
Lister: Not Chen?
Holly: Gordon Bennett! Yes, Chen, everybody, everybody's dead, Dave!
Lister: Rimmer?
Holly: He's dead, Dave, everybody is dead, everybody is dead, Dave.
Lister: Wait. Are you trying to tell me everybody's dead?

Thing about death - we know it's utterly natural. An inevitable result of the way our bodies work. The result of the way the universe works. Everything dies. It's how it is. And yet - it's always a shock. The discovery that a loved one has terminal cancer. The news that people have died in a terrorist attack. Even the death of an old, old woman like Emma Morano - we know deep down that, however much this may be how the world works, it's not right. Someone who laughed, danced, cried, hugged us, loved us - they are no more. And there's a hole where love should be. And it's not bloody right.

Early on a Sunday morning, a grieving woman called Mary goes down to a tomb. Her teacher, her leader is dead. And it's not bloody right. But even so she's going to do what needs to be done - to dress his body with herbs and then leave him until the flesh is gone from his body. The Jews didn't flinch from death - they would return after a few years, take the bones and put them into an ossuary - a bone box - where they would take up less space.

These days they're always getting dug up in Israel and Palestine in archaeological digs, ossuaries. Every year or two somebody will dig an ossuary up and find it's got the name "Jesus" on it and get over-excited in the press for a day or two. But it doesn't mean anything. Being called "Jesus" in 1st Century Judea and Galilee was like being called Harley or Kylie today. They all were. Well, a lot of the men at any rate. Not Kylie. Jesus.

But that's the precise point here - the Bible makes the claim that when Mary went down to the grave, there was no body there. The rock - put in place to make sure nobody could steal the body - is out of the way. The guards - well, they've run away to make up stories to cover their respective backsides. Ideally a story that doesn't involve the awful, shocking news that the one they were supposed to be keeping neatly stacked away, had decided to go for a walk in the dew of that first morning of the week. Because death is shocking, but this life is even more so.

Mary's not stupid. She knows that people don't just go rising from the dead. Not a normal activity. Especially not from a bloody, hideous, thorough death like being flayed with a Roman whip and then nailed to a cross and left there till everybody knows you're dead, then stabbed in the side with a javelin just to make sure. Nobody who's been through that is going to be running around the garden in the cool of the day. So this bloke hanging around must be the gardener, mustn't he? The one person he can't be is Jesus.

And he says just her name, "Mary", and she knows who he is. Despite the fact that it's impossible; despite the hideous cold finality of death. This is her Lord. And he's calling her.

And the world changes.

It's not that death becomes less ghastly. It's an outrage - a hideous outbreak into the way we believe things should be - and we know it. It's not that disasters are less terrible. Not that injustices are less unfair. The 96 of Hillsborough, the refugees car-bombed in Syria, the trafficked innocents drowned in the Mediterranean - they are all dead, and their deaths call out to heaven. And we can't undo them by wishing.

But it offers hope through the valley of the shadow of death. It says that when an evil empire and a cabal of powerful men got together - when the Devil himself thought he had won - that their vision was too weak. The bounds of their vision were those of death. They did not see that justice would outlast injustice, that love could be stronger than death. 

In his death, Jesus Christ - the Son of God - descends with us into the depths of our human experience. His pointless, evil, cruel death is just one more in the litany of evil that starts with the death of Abel and goes all the way up to the Copts that were murdered at their Palm Sunday service last week. There's no distance down that we might encounter, that Christ has not descended with us. He's gone there all the way with us.

And as he rises from the tomb, he drags us back up from Hell with him. His arms - shattered on the cross - are still strong to lift us. His back - torn by the whip - is able to carry us. And all things are changed. Death is still death, but it's not final. Evil is still evil, but love wins in the end. And we wait, and hope.

Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. 

One Tiny Resurrection at a Time

28 years ago, 95 Liverpool fans were killed - another died later - at an FA Cup Semi-Final at Hillsborough. The Sun newspaper at the time blamed what it described as drunken Liverpool fans. It claimed some Liverpool fans had urinated on, or stolen from, the dying. Years later, after endless campaigning and fighting, it is agreed that the Sun had lied - apparently, in part, to cover up for the incompetence of the police operation. The Sun Editor - a man of so apparently little principle that he changed the football team he supports after they were relegated - was Kelvin MacKenzie.

This Friday, the Sun published an opinion piece in which the Everton footballer Ross Barkley was insulted. Barkley had, apparently without provocation, been attacked in a night club. The Sun's opinion piece said that Barkley was stupid and compared him to a gorilla.  It also said that Barkley earned a similar wage packet to drug dealers in Liverpool (Everton, for those that do not know, are the third most famous football team in the city of Liverpool). The columnist who wrote this piece of filth has been referred to the police amid claims that the "gorilla" slur was racially motivated. That columnist? Kelvin MacKenzie. The Sun has suspended him as a columnist. One wonders why the editor did not read the piece before it went out.

In this vale of tears that is our world, I find it hard to believe that 96 innocent Liverpool fans died, while the one who lied about and abused their friends and fellow-fans is still able to find work as some kind of journalist. I find it hard to believe that as the anniversary of Hillsborough came round, MacKenzie could decide it was time to slime the city of Liverpool again. I imagine he does not care, and will not care about the upset he has caused. On this world, in this time, he will never truly pay for the hurt and damage, the lies and abuse. He is rich, and comfortable, and arrogant.

Holy Saturday is a strange day. That first Holy Saturday would not have been like the others. The disciples and their friends had no idea that they would see Jesus again. He had died - like so many others - at the hands of the Romans. It had been an outrage, an injustice. If Kelvin MacKenzie had been on the books at the Jerusalem Herald, he would no doubt have said that Jesus was a thug, a troublemaker, a delinquent with a known track record of turning over tables and chasing money-changers with whips. The disciples saw no hope, no future, no resurrection. They weren't waiting, as we do, knowing that it all changes on Sunday.

One day, it will all be different again. The day when the dead rise like their Lord, the injustices are overturned, wrongs are all righted and every tear is wiped from the eyes of those who mourn. One day, that first Resurrection will blaze back into this world to bring about every resurrection.  In the mean time, let's fight injustices one at time. Counter each lie with truth. Each act of hatred with love. From now to the Great Day may be a long time. But we will get there - one tiny resurrection at a time.

Friday, 14 April 2017

On Golgotha

In pain we lose touch with the world.

Searing pain - flesh torn apart; head ripped with thorns; wrists and feet pierced with iron spikes. The pain should drag you away from this world, as your life - first borne by that woman who weeps - pours into the Judean dust.

Darkness. But the darkness of death or of the skies that mourn? Or are they the same, in the faintness of this hour?

Rejection. The crowds that laughed and then grew bored. But your friends - gone too. And the Father? Where is he as you hang in the darkness? Can you see him? Do you hear him in this dark place, as you did by the sea?

Your compassion. Yes, my teacher and friend - I will take her as my mother. Care for the one who cared for you. Watch over her through her Passion. When you are gone she will still have a son.

It is finished.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

I Believe in the Resurrection

Peter Ould does some analysis and Ian Paul does some commentary on the BBC's shock-horror "3/4 Christians believe in the Resurrection" story.

I must admit I was surprised anyone was surprised at that figure. And astounded by Peter Ould's calculation that among active churchgoers the figure is actually over 90%.

I mean, did the authors of "Myth of God Incarnate" write all that drivel for nothing? Did John AT Robinson write a book that was utterly incomprehensible to normal human beings, so that people could go on believing  the Creeds?

Why did the "Jesus Seminar" put such weight on a document that may never have existed, and go to such trouble to make up ground rules that suited their intent, if people just read the Gospel like it's truth?

Why did liberal scholars suffer their sinecures and college dinners for so long, if their conclusions that none of the Bible can be trusted and their jobs are pointless, are ignored from Brompton Road to Watford Gap, and even in the savage areas beyond?

Well, the only liberals that can take comfort from this poll are the ones in the Church that claims many of the "active" Christians and nearly all of the "inactive" ones. The Church of England.


Monday, 10 April 2017

Re-accommodating to the Modern World

Bit of a disturbance at today's "Fig Monday" service. People thought we were offering free figs and we had hordes of fig-lovers turned up.

Four more than we had seats, as it turned out. Hnaef, Keith, Charlii and I emerged to discover that our druiducal seating had been appropriated by random proles.

So, in accordance with the old saying that  "the last will be first", we asked that the people in our chairs move. No response.

So I started hitting them with my cricket bat. Well, you get over-excited don't you?

I'm pleased to say we had enough chairs in the end. And I'm really grateful to the Beaker Folk we had to re-accommodate to make this possible

I hope they wake up soon.

Radical New Theory About Judas

A theologian has received condemnation after publishing a radical new  theory about Judas Iscariot.

Margot Bogblotter is under fire after the publication of her new book, "Judas was Pretty Rotten and May Have Gone to Hell". In it, Professor Bogblotter suggests that Judas has consistently been misunderstood, and was actually "bad to the bone."

"It was amazing," said Prof Bogblotter, "we have been taught all this time that Judas was basically a nice bloke who was trying to help Jesus achieve his full potential, but got things a bit wrong. But then I made an incredible discovery."

She made the discovery in a group of little-known  first-century manuscripts called "The Gospels." These hold the amazing revelations that:
- Judas only wanted to save the money Mary spent on perfume, so he could steal it.
- He was regarded as a bit of a rogue by  the Early Church.
- He colluded with the Chief Priests and Pharisees to betray his rabbi.
- Jesus said Judas was "doomed to destruction" and it would be better if he had not been born.

"This could really turn our understanding of the "Under-achieving Apostle" on its head," said Prof Bogblotter. "We are on the cusp of a new understanding of Judas as a self-serving, greedy get."

In response, a random 70-year-old clergy told us that the traditional view of Judas should not be rejected too quickly: "He's just had a bad press."

So - sinner? Or really heinous worst sinner ever?

The jury is out

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Myth of the Easter Rabbit

Shocking piece debunking the whole concept of the goddess Eostre (invented by Bede) and the Easter Bunny. Not because it debunks the whole thing. But because it fails to mention that the story actually goes back to the ancient Beaker religion.

Not an ancient Saxon goddess

In the ancient Beaker religion, the rabbit was a sacred beast. Its ability to run into holes and back was seen as a symbol of new life. The earless breed of Beaker Bunny, in particular, was a living parable - a rabbit and yet, at the same time, scarily like a groundhog.

In the autumn, as the sun's warmth retreated and the nights grew longer, so the Beaker Bunnies went into their warrens. The Beaker folk believed that they were accompanying the rabbit goddess Polly - the goddess of waitresses and implausible excuses, leporine equivalent to the Graeco-Roman Persephone  - on her journey to the underworld to see her husband, the frankly implausible Big Bunny.

Once winter was over, the sun came out in spring, and the bunnies rejoined the upper world and started breeding like the proverbial, then believers knew that life was come back to the world. They believed that, in a sense, the rabbits were not just rejoicing in that new life, but in fact encapsulated and brought into being the life. As a result, they did not kill the rabbits and make tasty stews, but instead brought them offerings of dandelion flowers (representing the sun), dandelion clocks (the moon) and dandelion leaves (representing lunch).

Needless to say, it was a fertility religion.

That is not a Donkey

Just had to cancel "Messy Palm Sunday due to the horror.

It was a lovely small-scale recreation of the procession into Jerusalem. The Earless Beaker Bunny played the donkey. She walked along the processional route, happily eating the "palms" (bits of rocket and endive).

Then arrived at the disciples.

The carved-out-of-carrot disciples.

We rescued Simon Peter and Andrew. But it was bad news for Philip and both Jameses.

Kids are mortified. Apart from young Celestine. She's feeding Judas to Bugsy, toes first. I worry about whom she takes after.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Stuff App'ens

Impressed by this tale of the people who complained about a garage control app.  So the app makers locked them out of their own garage.

Especially when I consider the bad reviews the Beaker Dating App, "Spiritual Buddies" has been getting from people who claim they are terribly unsuited. Especially the two Calvinists who totally failed to hit it off, despite the app claiming they were bound to be compatible.

So I've made a few tweaks From now on, anyone giving "Spiritual Buddies" fewer than 4 stars gets a taupe chakra.

You'd be amazed how quickly the ratings go up.


Friday, 7 April 2017

When Justice is Stupid, not Blind

"You are a heinous criminal. You have assaulted your wife and I am sending you to prison for.....

Oh - you're a cricketer? And your wife is intelligent?

Suspended....."

Western Action in the Middle East


CountryWestern actionEffect
IraqAttack the GovernmentChaos
IraqPull outISIS
LibyaSupport the rebelsChaos
SyriaEncourage revolt but stay outChaos
SyriaBomb ISISGovernment gets stronger
SyriaAttack the GovernmentTerror

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Liturgy for Discovering that Barry Manilow is Gay

Archdruid: I have news of grave report

All: Trump's confused the nuclear codes with a Sudoku?

Archdruid: No. Barry Manilow is gay.

All may go to the foot of their stairs.

All:  OK. What's for dinner?

Liturgy of Pebbles

Each Beaker Person receives a pebble as they enter the Moot House.

Archdruid: Today we're going to use these pebbles as a focus.

All: Ooh! Wonder what they're gonna be this time?

Archdruid: Symbols of the world, as surrogate out-of-season hazelnuts?

All: Done that

Archdruid: To be lifted in response every time someone says the word "love"?

All: Our arms are still sore from last time.

Archdruid: The Divine within us?

All: That was last week.

Archdruid:  The weight of our sins?

All: But you told us "sin" was an outdated concept.

Archdruid: "Failings" then?

All: Did that last month. We dropped them all in The Holy Well.

Archdruid: Oh yeah. Caused all that flooding.  OK... Symbols of prayer, to be dropped in a bowl of water?

All: There's one in the Prayer Corner, ready with its pile of pebbles.

Archdruid: Reminders of Peter, called the Rock?

All: Did that last summer.

Archdruid: Components of a very small cairn?

All: Good idea! We could build it next to the other 43 cairns.

Archdruid: Our hopes and dreams?

All: Over in the grove. Each pebble attached to its very own hope or dream.

Archdruid: The surface on which to draw a spiritual image?

All: Loads of 'em - piled up on the Spiritual  Things Table.

Archdruid: Something to write a new name on?

All: A bit Book of Revelation.

Archdruid: OK. Shall we give the pebbles a miss?

All: We thought you'd never ask.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Getting Over-Eggcited

Only a few days after we announced it was Eggmas - the season of whinging that eggs don't have the word "Easter" on them.

And really, it's like we can't think normally any more. Everything is scanned with an eye to taking offence. There are people on SocMed so constantly offended that their blood pressure must be under terrible danger. Every BBC article investigated for left/right wing bias or Islamophilia. Every ludicrous pronouncement by a has-been / barely-was politician treated as if it is Government policy.

And so the Church of England, resplendent in cultural irrelevance, is quoted complaining that the Cadbury-sponsored National Trust Egg Hunt has airbrushed Easter.

I don't know how best to put this.

Cadbury is part of an international company. It is no longer owned by Quakers. It owes nothing to the Church of England.

The National Trust is dedicated to the preservation of old buildings that people used to have a purpose for. In that respect it has a certain similarity to the Church of England. But it's not preserving them for religious reasons.

So the C of E makes itself look stupid. The chap from the Meaningful Easter Egg company gets free publicity. But nobody is saved. No minds are changed.

And the C of E, like an institutionalised Arthur Scargill, shakes its fist at society and wonders why nobody listens to it any more. It's like George Herbert had never left us.

Simply put - you want people to have "Easter" on eggs, then thrill so many people with the joy of the Easter story that the season means something. You'll get the word on the eggs then.

But you won't make lots of kids into Christians just by printing "Easter" on shiny wrapping. After all, half of them think it's when Father Christmas was eaten by the Easter Bunny. Win the story, then you can have your own packaging.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Donkey Risk Assessment



  1. Is it a real donkey? Mules, horses, ponies and ostriches need their own risk assessments. In the case of ostriches, consider especially the danger of people skidding on yolks.
  2. Does someone have a brush and spade? 
  3. If so - how strong is their stomach?
  4. Is the donkey on a rain-affected surface? Be aware that rain-impacted pavements are more splay-prone than grass.
  5. If the donkey will enter the church - is the floor (a) Wood (b) Tile or stone (c) Carpet?
  6. If (c) - do you have the dry foam ordered already?
  7. Don't forget - the end that doesn't do the biting is the end that does the kicking. And vice versa.
  8. If it slobbers and wags its tail, it's probably a labrador retriever.
  9. If the vicar thinks s/he is going to ride on the donkey consider (a) how big is the vicar? (b) do they have a Messiah complex? If they're humble - why do they want to ride on the donkey anyway? If they say they're so humble they can ride it - DO NOT let them ride the donkey.
  10. Just how sharp are those palms? Cut up newspapers are fine. Flowering Yukka can take your eye out. 
  11. Check the hooves. Ensure you have not used both cross-ply and radial, or the donkey may lose traction on corners.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Billy Graham Rules OK

There has been something of a furore over the revelation that Mike Pence follows the "Billy Graham" rule - that he will not eat or be alone with a woman to whom he is not related. And the article I have linked to from Natalie Collins, although well-written, can obviously be ignored becase it is written by a woman. And although it might be useful for the edification of women, this is irrelevant to us men.

Therefore I would like to share my own thoughts on this troubled area, with the hope it will be of use in the instruction of men - as after all, we need to take what might best be described as "evasive action".

First of all, let me make it clear that there is no blame to attach to women here, beyond that which originally attached to Eve. She it was, after all, that tempted Adam. And so although we have to recognise the danger they cause, they are merely acting according to their own weak nature. Which, although redeemed and renewed by God, still is not yet perfect. So although they are not to blame, it is all none the less their fault.

People may say that I should not speak of what I do not know, Brothers in Christ (it might be best for the Sisters in Christ to go off and do some knitting or light Bible study at this point). But, as the first commenter on Natalie Collins' article makes clear, I know far more than women what goes on in my mind, body and spirit when trying to resist the incidental seductions of the weaker sense.

Indeed, I remember the last time I had dinner with a woman who was not my wife. Back when I was still a travelling insurance salesman, I had to have dinner with my manager.

Well, needless to say it was a nightmare, Dear Brothers. For did she not insist on eating with her mouth? What more insidious temptation could I face? On three occasions I was so intent on her body - which she was using to sit at the table and eat - that I stabbed myself in the face with a fork.

All through our meal together, she insisted on talking to me. And it was notable that she steered the conversation onto just those subjects: insurance, salesmanship, personal development - most likely to inflame my desires. I had of course refused to countenance any wine with the meal - sticking strictly to water with no more than one cube of ice, for we are not to revel in luxury like the Babylonians. And it was just as well, for such was her encouragement of carnal desires through her discussion of these matters that I could in fact not speak, but just sat there with my mouth agape.

With the tempting words, "I'd better get off now - we've a hard day tomorrow. People in Newark don't buy life insurance easily, because life's already so cheap" - she was gone to her hotel room. And I have always reflected that it was only my iron self-control - and the fact that my knees were no longer working due to my state of semi-paralysis - that I did not take her up on that blatant offer.

Needless to say, after that dinner meeting I had to resign, Dear Brothers. But as you have seen, I am a man of the world.  I  therefore take Natalie Collins' point that the normal ways of obtaining leadership posts - 1 to 1 training, occasional meals with the boss - are not available to women. So now I offer you this guide to how you can instruct your womenfolk in the ways of obtaining leadership in the Church. If your wife or daughter feels called to - appropriate and limited - authority, as it may be a children's teacher or an instructor of other women - let them follow these simple suggestions.

1. If a rising church leader is single, maybe they could marry them?  (NB I am referring to unmarried daughers here and not people's wives.)

2. If that option is not available, why not make friends with the pastor's wife? They will already be in a position of leadership over other women, and very likely prepared to delegate to the appropriate godly women.

3. The great thing about making friends with the pastor's wife is that your wife or daughter can safely go to dinner, or have coffee, with them without inflaming terrible and potentially scandalous desires. Except in that dreadful case in the Wolverhampton Funambulist Baptists, which we try not to think
about.

4. Ensure your wife or daughter avoids being too attractive, lest they attract unwanted attention from a lonely pastor. Clearly they should avoid make up (the women, that is. The pastors go without saying). But maybe a light application of dirt to their faces will deter the really eager ministers.

5. Whatever else they do, ensure your wives and daughters stay away from Evangelical Church Leaders.  Apparently Billy Graham does not think they can be trusted.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Writes of the Church: The Book

In the beginning was this blog.  And then one day there was a "Letters to the Church Magazine" post.  It had various sources of inspiration.  Mostly the fellow-parishioners of a friend.

And then I spent a while in the Trim Valley and it became the "Writes of the Church".

And now "Writes of the Church" is going to be a book. With more than a hundred of their finest (nearly all new, and a few others improved) letters to the magazine. Some brilliant cartoons by Dave Walker. And it's coming out in September - ready to be that ideal present for the vicar, churchwarden or obsessive bloke who wants to save £74.22 in your life. And it won't even cost £74.22!

A queue of people with letters at the vicar's door, while the vicar hides behind the curtains




The War on Easter

Can all Beaker Folk please note that today is the first day of "Eggmas." It should have been the Spring Eggwinox same as normal, but St Joseph's Day was transferred because Sunday so Eggmas had to be moved as well.

Eggmas is the first day of the year when you are allowed to complain that the word "Easter" is not on Easter eggs. My favourite complainant from last year was this from Fr David Palmer, quoted by the Telegraph:
“Easter on the back? - Jolly decent of you. I brought 60 Creme eggs for the kids at my Church. Shan't next year.”

Crème eggs are on sale from 1 January. They have never been labelled as "Easter" eggs - or not that I remember. If the good Father knew his history he wouldn't get so over-egg-cited.

Still, the point is valid. After all, the Easter Egg's been in eggsistence ever since that first Third Monday in Lent when Judas demanded to know why Mary Magdalene was busy pouring molten chocolate into moulds so early.

My feeling is that last year's eggstravagant complaints were a clever marketing ploy by the Real Easter Egg Co to get their name in all the papers. But we've got the chance now once again to get Christianity associated with killjoy hysteria so let's go for it. Complain about the pagan eggs! Blame it on fear of Islamic eggstremism, rampant seggularism or Hen Livingstone.

But just remember. We may be called to be all things to albumen. But St Paul told us not to be yolked together with unbelievers.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Dinner with Mike Pence and Ken Livingstone

Archdruid: Glad you could both make it. I fancy the mackerel pate for starters - what about you, Ken?

Livingstone: Hitler.

Archdruid: Sorry?

Livingstone: I mean, Herring. Nice bit of roll mop herring.

Archdruid: And for you, Mike?

Pence: A woman! Who let you in here?

Archdruid: Calm down. We've got Ken with us.

Livingstone: And Hitler.

Archdruid: What?

Livingstone: If Hitler were here, there'd be four of us. Five of us if we include his Zionist friend.

Archdruid: He's not here, Ken.

Livingstone: A lot of people do deny it.

Sommelier: To drink?

Archdruid: G&T and then a nice Douro white.

Pence: Water please. Not too carbonated. There's a woman here. And she may decide to be available later. So I need to be on my guard against her witchcraft.

Archdruid: And you, Ken?

Livingstone: Crystal....

Sommelier: Roederer Crystal?

Livingstone: No, Kristallnacht. That was nasty. Don't get me wrong. But Hitler wouldn't have had to do it if he'd got his agreement with the Zionists....

Archdruid: Ken, leave it.  [to sommerlier] He'll have the old crusted red.

Ken: I'm just nipping to the Berghof...

Archdruid: I presume you mean the loo. He's a bit obsessive, I'm afraid, Mike. Mike?

Pence: I'm just off to the men's room...

Archdruid: What, with Ken?

Pence: It's the Billy Graham Rule.  What will people say if I'm alone at the table with you?

Archdruid: What will they say if you follow Ken to the toilet?

Livingstone: I think Mike's got a bunker mentality.

Archdruid: It's gonna be a long night.

The Trump Samaritan

Inspired by this tweet from Andrew Brown....

So this man. Going down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Beautiful place, Jerusalem. Has the best Temple. Herod - great man. Very intelligent man. Yeah, Herod was great. And I told him - Herod, you gotta make that Temple the best. Bigly, beautiful Temple. Yuge. Believe me. I saw it on "Herod, that Fox" News. Not failing Luke's Gospel.

But Herod - he's gotta pay what he owes for the Pax Romana.

But the man fell among bad hombres. Real bad hombres. The worst. Pilate shoulda built a wall. Weak man, Pilate. No energy. Too busy washing his hands. Let the Edomites in. We need the Edomites back in Edom.

So the guy's lying there. And no way failing Obamacare gonna help him.

So a priest comes past. Great priest. Really good at sacrifices. The best sacrifices. But he's mean. Wants to stay clean. Would have to carry the man. So leaves him. Sad.

Then a Levite. You know what Levites do for a living? Nothing. Real lazy hombres. No energy. Goes past.

Then the Samaritan comes down. Not in Samaria. An illegal. Shoulda built another wall.  James and John - they wanted to blow up a Samaritan village. We're gonna bomb the **** out of Samaria.

And the Samaritan looks after the man. Puts him up in Trump Tavern. Asks the inn keeper to look after him till he comes back. And nobody can look after injured people as well as my inn keeper. I have the best wayside taverns.

Who was the man's neighbour?

Not the Samaritan. No more. We're sending him back to Samaria.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

New Directions in Self-Supporting Ministry: Cancelled

I'm afraid we're having to cancel our week-long course, "New Directions in Self-Supporting Ministry."

The retired self-supporting druids all got their forms back at the subsidised rates. But very poor take-up from the ones in employment. So there was no way the course could pay for itself.

I phoned up Fadrick, the guy who runs the La Tene Folk of Luton. He said he couldn't make it because he has "a young family, a day job, and a church to run."

I mean, it was only one a one-week course with 20 hours or so of prep.

Some people have no commitment.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Liturgy of Article 50

Archdruid: Is this really happening?

All: We just thought it was a bit of a laugh....

Archdruid: I mean, yeah in theory I didn't like the EU either.

All: But we didn't think this would actually happen.

Archdruid: Was this really about sovereignty and free trade?

All: No. We just wanted to get rid of the foreigners.

Archdruid: WHAT?

All: We said - we just wanted to get rid of the red tape.

Archdruid: WHAT WAS THAT?

All: What?

Archdruid: That thing. It scuttled into the shadows. Smelt of burning and broken glass.

All: Oh, the spirit of Mosley? He's been hanging around...

Archdruid: What?

All: He just flits among the trees, biding his time...

Archdruid: And he doesn't bother you?

All: Snowflake.

Archdruid: We will now sing Psalm 23. For about 6 years. Or possibly slightly longer.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Scariest Services

OK it wasn't representative. It was self selecting. And it was Twitter.

But a highly accurate survey of how people felt about the scariness of different liturgical Sundays was conclusive. Quite a few worship leaders are angst- ridden at the thought of leading Mothering Sunday or Trinity Sunday services. And quite a few - but substantially fewer - are angst-ridden about Remembrance Sunday.

This would be especially noticeable, if it were statistically significant, when we remember that Twitter clergy are, for the most part, the most pinko progressives ever to cry liberal tears at the thought that someone, somewhere, might be being mildly disparaging about an endangered species of whelk. Yet they still think the subjects of "Mothering" and "Trinity" are more problematic than marking the casualties of wars many of them probably don't agree with.

How can this be? How did we allow it to get to this state?  Given two services which are meant to be about thanks and wonder-  why are people less worried about Remembrance, where they stagger up the pulpit steps weighed down with assorted colours of poppies they'll have to explain to Major Dumpling  (Retd) later?

Neither Mothering nor Trinity Sunday are in the Bible - so we could lose them. Trinity Sunday is always the week the vicar decides the trainee / lay preacher/  retired newby in town can have a bash. So what's the problem? Surely we should celebrate the Holy Trinity, naturally, in living worship all year - and not save it up for an annual Feast of Modalism.

Of course, it was only an advisory poll. But then so was the Brexit referendum.

The people have spoken. We must take rapid, unwise action.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

New SI Unit Definition: Nanosecond

The time between a peaceful march starting, and someone on Twitter complaining the BBC are ignoring it.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Mothering Sunday - Urgent Update

We've gone through tomorrow's special "Not Offending Anybody on Mothering Sunday" service to ensure it can't cause offence or upset.

We took out anything that could offend or upset people who were adopted; people who wanted to be mothers but couldn't be; people who've lost their mothers; people who can't stand their mothers; mothers who can't stand their children; men; people who were raised by wolves and people who hate other people trying not to offend or upset people.

Which means the liturgy now consists of simply the line "I take it you forgot the clocks went forward?"

So let's take the day off. It's best all round. The potted primroses the Little Pebbles were going to give out are in the potting shed. For those of you who aren't offended by primroses.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

#Westminster

View from Westminster Bridge
Burton Dasset went to work in London today. Same as he always does. Queued up at Flitwick same as he always does. Stood up and was 10 minutes late, same as ever. Yes, I've basically ripped this off "Arnold Same" by Blur.

Burton Dasset isn't heroically standing up to some unfocused, random enemy of Civilisation. He is not a hero. He's not brave. But he is good at sums.

3 people died in London yesterday in a vicious murder. Killed by a narcissistic fantasist. Those three innocent people leave great holes in other people's lives. They were loved. It's an utter tragedy. Even the dead narcissistic fantasist loser leaves a hole in the lives of the people who loved him - yet whom he did not love enough to think they were more important than his own precious ego.

But.

On average, yesterday in the United Kingdom, 10 people will have died in car crashes. 2 people will have died in other murders. In terms of deaths caused in the UK yesterday, this fantasist was irrelevant. He was a legend in his own head only. Even the evil "state" that claimed responsibility had to wait until the British police identified him to say who he was. The only people he really benefited were Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage. He won't encourage any more people to join Islamic State. Because we've already exported most of our losers to them. And the vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims are nice people, And there are 10 million people who live and work round London. And 3 people are a great tragedy, but a very small percentage.

So Burton went into work. More police, to reassure the public. They're good people. But Burton wasn't particularly worried. London is a big town, and the chances of him dying were very small. He's not brave. But he is good at sums.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Most Useless Battle Ever

"In March 1889, an Imperial German naval force entered a village on Samoa, and in doing so destroyed some American property. Three American warships then entered the Apia harbor and prepared to engage the three German warships found there. Before any shots were fired, a typhoon wrecked both the American and German ships. A compulsory armistice was then called because of the lack of any warships."

From Wikipedia

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Lament for the Loss of Free Coffee in Waitrose

Our hearts are sorrowful within us
And our spirits fail.
For Waitrose want us to buy something
Before they give us a cup of coffee.

As I push my trolley round, I thirst like unto the hart
That thirsts for the spring of water
I'd make the "Deer pants" joke 
Only that works better with John Lewis.

My tears would overflow my cup
If I had but time to catch them.
But instead now I must gulp down my drink
For fear my frozen tarragon might melt before I get home.

I remember how I used to go up to Waitrose
In the days of my youth
When we thought they were a branch of Social Services
Specially for middle-class people.

But now my days are like my coffee.
Long, dark and bitter.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Church SWOT Analysis

So the consultants were really very keen I focussed on their SWOT analysis.

You know the idea?  You list out all the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of your organisation.  Helps you to understand what to look out for and what to improve.

I dunno though, I just reckon there's something wrong....

All the SWOT quadrants are "Threats".

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Equinox Eve

Excitement as we hear that among the list of candidates for the Bishop of Llandaff are possibly some Welsh people. Now, we have no strict opinion at the Beaker Folk as to whether people are born Welsh or whether Welshness is some kind of choice. But it's great to see them being so open-minded about people who are openly Welsh.

Meanwhile, we're all set up for the Spring Equinox. The Tightrope of Balance has one  again been tied up from Duck Henge to the Great Trilithon, and Hnaef is ready for the great walk over the duck pond.  It's been ten years since he got across without crashing to a watery (and feathery) landing - but maybe this year will be the year again.

The great expert on primaveral custom, Mr Vernon Equinox, will be with us tomorrow to tell us about how the increasing light is a symbol of hope, new life and growth.  And we're gonna have a massive Hot Cross Bun party. The sacred nature of Equinox is never far below the surface - like the shoots of the plants that even now are pushing through the ground - but let's not miss out on the chance to get some early Easter Eggs in.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Woman at the Well - What do Pretty Girls Do?

(John 4:5-42)

Two people out of place.

The respectable Jewish preacher - in a Samaritan town. Enemy territory. Where the Pax Romana holds but that doesn't mean that the locals have to welcome one of the other lot.

And the woman who comes down to the well to draw water in the heat of the day. A woman who has a fairly unconventional sexual history, apparently. We're not told whether she's buried the five husbands or whether that's a series of desertions and / or divorces. You're guessing she's not so young any more - memories of the Kirsty MacColl song "What do Pretty Girls Do" when you've lost your looks and the townsfolk don't think you're so glamorous and Mr Number 6 doesn't want to tie himself down with the woman who's seen off so many others. And "Everybody's happy when she isn't at the door She sends out invitations to everyone, they don't come. And the phone ain't ringing for her now."




So she's down the well at lunchtime, in the heat of a Samaritan day whereas conventional women would be going down at dusk or first thing in the morning. Maybe the Sychar townswomen's guild don't want to be seen hanging around with the woman whose life has apparently consisted of a series of attempts to find happiness through the frankly unreliable medium of a bunch of blokes.

And Jesus at no point tells her off for anything. This woman - half outcast, from a foreign, heretical race - he shouldn't be looking at her. He shouldn't be asking her to do him a favour - conceding her a position of advantage over him.

But Jesus can see a deep yearning in her. The well is deep - the countryside is dry and the water table's low. When she wants water she's got to work hard for it - reach down to find it where it can't be seen. There's an analogy - when she's wanted happiness, fulfilment in life - she's looked for it through all these men. And they're let downs. They either leave or die or won't commit. And she's lonely at the end of it all.

And Jesus isn't saying that human sexual love is bad. He's saying that it's not where she will find real fulfilment. That complete fulfilment comes from knowing God - being in relationship with Jesus - being filled with the living waters of the Holy Spirit. Not a still well in a parched landscape, but living waters. A spring - which flows and is cool and is constantly refreshed.

She knows that this young Jewish man is making an offer - telling her something deep about herself - hitting nails on the head. So she tries to turn the conversation to theology. Good thing about that kind of theology - "where do you reckon the Temple ought to be.... what do you think about the old Messiah then, eh?"

If you're going to try and turn the conversation to the Messiah as a way of getting out of an awkward discussion, it's best not to do that when you're having that discussion with the Messiah himself. I mean, what are the chances? But she finds out that is who she's talking to. The hope of Jew and Samaritan alike - the Messiah who comes to give true life. Life that is full now, and alive forever.

The woman knows who Jesus is, and she's turned around. Instead of the lonely reject, she's the one who brings the Good News to her town. The disciples have seen something new. They now know that God's love goes beyond race, and gender, and keeping the community rules on how women should behave. There's something more important than any of these - something more lasting than these. A deep-flowing, never-ending flow of God's blessing - which spreads through Jesus to the woman and out to her community. And the promise of the love of God, which flows forever.

Church Strapline Generator

Scared that you may have to come up with something snappy to describe your diocese, church or small group?  Worried by the Vision Statements of the 1990s - those vaguely worded yet interminable and ungrammatical statements of our aspirations?

Well worry no more.  You don't need to write Mission Statements for churches these days. Directional Values are pretty funky (I notice this example doesn't include "downwards" or what Southwell and Nottingham would no doubt call "deeper". Probably because encouraging people on a downwards journey isn't where the Church is at.)

But best of all, you can just come up with a church strapline - just three unrelated adjectives. Everyone knows exactly what you're about. Unless it's gibberish or sounds like smut. And we've provided you with a generator to produce a new one every 3 seconds!  Everyone's a winner.

My personal favourite so far is "Good News-ier - Fresher - Bluesier". But what's yours?





Church Strapline of the Week.....


(NB - having trouble rendering this on Android. Our technical team are working on it (ie Burton Dasset is frantically looking at Google). But request the PC / Desktop site and it's fine).

Consultancy Reports: Key Strategies

Well that was quite a week with the management consultants we brought in from LeDouche. Whole host of suggestions they've given us.

I'm going to be particularly keen to look at their "four towers" of ecclesiological synergism. These are:

A) SocMed Engagement - "Near-life Activism and the 24-hour Spiritual Marketplace."
B)  Build the Brand - "When people hear "Beaker Folk" they have to think "Accessible, Authentic, Spiritual Experience - when you want it.""
C) Organisational Realignment - "We need to redirect the Druids to instantiate existential purpose"
D) Merchandising.

I'm off with a dictionary and strong coffee to read the 200 pages of reports behind these headlines. I'm sure I'll find God in there somewhere.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

"Evil Vicar" Makes Smallbone Shrivel

Come on Beaker Folk.

Or at least those of you Twitter inclined.

The redoubtable tweeter and ordinand Fergus has set up a head to head between Rev's useless, post-modern Adam Smallbone and David Mitchell's brilliant Evil Vicar.

You know who should win. And it's not the Drip of the East End.

So get over there and vote. And don't forget..... WE'RE BACK.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Lydia Smears Reveals What Led to Her Becoming a Guardian Columnist


The Commuters' Confession

[Leader]

Can you hear us?

[All]

WE'RE ON THE TRAIN!!!!!!

We have erred and strayed in our ways
just as the 0738 strays from its timetable.

When people on cheap returns have tried to get through the barriers in rush hour,
when we've had a hard day,
we have wished we could push them over
and walk over their backs.

We have tweeted in the hardness of our hearts about those who talk noisily on phones.
Then taken calls ourselves.
It was important.

We have sat in the half-carriage next to first class
to get free WiFi.

[Cyclists]

We have put a third bike in the bike carriage
when the signs clearly say two only.
In fact, got five on one day
when it was busy and the inspector couldn't get down the train.

[Middle aged male cyclists]

We have worn inappropriate Lycra
knowing other people would have to gaze upon our unnecessarily accentuated and not improved bodies.

[All]

We have growled when people have been slow in sitting down
wondering why they appear to have packed their entire lives into their rucksacks
and why they need it all for a thirty minute train journey.

We have pretended to sleep when the ticket inspector comes through
not because we don't have tickets
but it's effort, innit?

We have put our  huge bags on the seats next to us
to ward off those who might sit next to us.

And we have shoved massive Luggages under the tables
then gnashed our teeth at those who ask us to move them.

And we have sat on the outside of an empty seat
in the hope they might just go away and sit on the parcel rack.
The big rack at the end of the carriage, obviously.
Not the overhead ones. That would be ridiculous.
Although maybe worth trying on a Thameslink.

We have complained inwardly in our hearts at those that crunch noisily.
Even as noisily as Moses breaking the tablets of the commandments.
And yet, after working late, we have eaten kebabs
Even such as whose fragrance reaches unto heaven.

But one thing we have not done.

One thing is anathema.

We have never stood right in front of the doors when getting on a train,
making it awkward for people to get off.
We'd never do that.
That is the behaviour of pagans, day-trippers and amateurs.
We thank God we are not like such as them.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

"For God's Sake" - A Reader's Impression

Edna looked down the road, to where vast crowds of her parishioners hurried to the mosque. She welcomed Ragnar and Chardonnay into the vestry, with little Neveah holding the hand of her tiny brother.

"You see Rev", said Chardonnay, "we were thinking of a fairy princess wedding. But then we thought - maybe a christening instead?"

"Well," said Edna, given Ragnar is still married to the wife he left at home, we can't really consider a wedding..."

"So Norwegian weddings count?"

And visions passed through Edna's mind. The things she'd felt called for. A group of rosy-cheeked children and bearded basses singing the Fauré "Pie Jesu". The memory of incense in the chill of a Monday morning, gathered with a few faithful for Morning Prayer in an ancient building. Burying the elders of the village while the packed faithful sang "The Old Rugged Cross" and touched eternity. Not this round of Governors' meetings, at Church of England schools in name only. Not the endless begging for funds to replace the rusted tin roof and strip out the asbestos. Frankly, even the Lloyd-Webber "Pie Jesu" would be something,

And her colleague, Len, was retiring in Drizzleborough, next door. The bishop had already started mentioning "synergies" and "rationalisation." But those were never going to include closing a building. Some joker had listed this blistered shed as a "fine example of 1960s brutalism", and Drizzleborough had its lovely 13th century wool church - now isolated between the shattered warehouses by the canal and the roundabout on the town centre gyratory.

So this was it, she thought. The cultured obscurity of Williams's poetry, her own sense of the God's presence, all the things she dreamed - instead, snatching at divinity through a pile of paperwork and the wind howling through the cracks in the concrete.

In the dust swirling behind the young couple, George Herbert's spirit sighed, and banged his head against the crumbling wall.


"For God's Sake - Reimagining Priesthood and Prayer in a Changing World."

Friday, 10 March 2017

Promotion of the Gospel

Good news for Sudan as it becomes the latest member of the Anglican Communion.

Not such good news for England, which has to play-off against Vanuatu to avoid relegation.  And we can confirm that, on this occasion, Andy Murray is Scottish.

Guardian Dating Over-Promises

I dunno. I just reckon this advert in the Guardian may be over-stating the case.

Someone's gonna be disappointed.

Male Bishops and Female Priests. And Vice Versa

Sadness, upset and a kind of grim sense of achievement from different quarters, as the Bishop of Burnley, Philip North, declines the role of Bishop of Sheffield.  This, for those unacquainted with the ways of the C of E, would have been a kind of promotion. A "diocesan" bishop, such as Sheffield, is in charge of their whole patch - whereas a "suffragan", such as Blackburn, is either a kind of assistant to the diocesan across the diocese, or else has one particular part of the diocese to look after under the diocesan's overall oversight.

Don't want to delve into the specifics of the case. Though I'd suggest you might want to read Jules Middleton's piece. But for the sake of a Venn diagram - let's come up with two hypothetical bishops. Bishop A is a male bishop who does not believe that women can be priests. Whereas Bishop B is a female bishop.

There are then issues as to who regards whom as really being the thing they are said to be. Some priests will regard Bishop B as not a proper bishop (because she is a woman).  Bishop A will regard some priests as not proper priests (because they are women).  The Venn diagram will look something like this:

A few things come out of this diagram. The first is that, somewhere, there is hypothetically a woman priest who doesn't think women can be bishops.  This may or may not be an empty set.

The second thing is that clearly the Church of England is a fractious old bunch. If you've got people going round the place believing that other people can't actually be the things they're said to be, there's always going to be a certain amount of muttering and not looking people in the eye and getting a bit embarrassed when people unexpectedly meet up. In fact if you factored in the whole "plastic chairs" phenomenon it would be even worse.

Then there's the fact that women bishops are now ordaining men as priests - which means that the "Priests that Bishop A doesn't think are real priests" set now includes an increasing number of men.

And finally there's the group of priests in the outer set, whom Bishop A thinks are real priests (because they are men ordained by other men) and who think Bishop B is a real bishop. This means they can, at least in principle, get on with most people.

In other words, the priests who have it easiest in the Church of England are middle-aged men of a liberal persuasion. But then, isn't that true everywhere? Despite all the fighting and sadness, turns out the C of E is just like society after all.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Church of England's Prayer for Today

Head aching as I read the C of E's special prayer for International Women's Day.

As propagated using the following tweet:



God our Creator,
you have built up your Church through the love and devotion of women everywhere:
inspire us to follow their great example that we may with them share in the vision of
your glory; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
Amen
Your exam questions:

1. Who are "we" that are praying - men, or everybody that prays that isn't one of the women who have built up your church?

2. If you are one of the women who has built up the Church (which is an ongoing process) - are you not allowed to pray this
a. because you've built up the Church, or
b. because you're a woman?

3. By encouraging people to build a gender equal world, is the C of E Twitter feed critiquing those of its bishops that don't want to build a gender equal world because they think  women can't be priests / bishops / leaders of any kind except of other women?

4. Is the C of E Twitter feed encouraging us to pray for those bishops to have their minds changed? If so shouldn't the Collect be more explicit?

5. Since the current C of E set up explicitly protects patriarchy - while simultaneously pretending it is only implicitly protecting patriarchy - isn't this tweet meaningless?

6. Am I over-thinking this?

Revised Classical Myths: Actaeon

Actaeon was a hunter. He was changed into a deer, and hunted to death, by the goddess Diana.

Although some say he startled her when bathing, it is now thought that he actually asked her "ironically" when International Men's Day is.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

How to Deal with a Male Archdruid

Utter confusion among the Wicker Folk of Walthamstow as they wonder how to deal with a male archdruid.

I can understand their alarm. After all, half of them don't think a man can be an archdruid. Indeed, I'm not really sure they can myself. That's why we've had to provide the Archdruid of Barnet, to offer Other Archdruidical Administration. Not saying that Stanwick of Walthamstow isn't a real archdruid.  But just in case anybody thinks, quite reasonably, that he isn't, Archdruid Elspeth is right on hand to sort things out.

I'm glad to have been part of this great leap forward in Beaker equality.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

And Just After we put up Arnold's Memorial Plaque, Ironically They Closed the Church

Graph of plummeting congregation vs Putting up Memorial Plaques

The Mythological First Man and his Transgender Clone

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”’
But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (Genesis 2.15-17,3.1-7)
And so the first man, and his transgender clone, dropped the whole world in it by taking instructions from a talking snake with legs.

I'm not a massive fan of the whole Original Sin / Penal Substitution construct for how to deal with human fallen-ness and redemption.  Not saying it's wrong.  Just saying it's only one model among many. Again, it's only part of the model but I thoroughly enjoyed Francis Spufford's "Human Propensity to 'Foul' Things Up" (I've made it SFW there) in the book, "Unapologetic." This idea that, despite all good intentions, we can still just get it wrong - isn't that just us? Isn't that what we see the whole time?

You know how it works. Somebody thinks that maybe America ain't what it was in the world. Which may be true. The blue collar workers don't have the old job security. Which is true. Something must be done.  Could well be true. And the next thing you know, President Trump is awake at 3am tweeting conspiracy theories. You can see at each step how you got from A to B to C - but the precise point where you turned off and ended up at Φ probably eludes you.

Or some people gather on Sundays in an ancient church in Bedfordshire to worship God. The rector wants to make children more welcome; Kevin wants the rules to be obeyed. The next thing you know they're in the Mail and talking to the diocese. How does that happen?

There's nothing wrong with the fruit in the garden.  It's good fruit. And there's nothing wrong with the fruit of knowledge. It looks lovely. And there's nothing wrong with eating fruit. But just that one fruit is the one they can't touch. It's not hard, is it?  Everything else - fine. That one fruit. But the disobedience creeps in.

First there's the fake legalism - "Did God say you can't eat any of the fruit?" Relativizes the rule. Because this is fruit - and you can eat it. And that's fruit.... why can't you eat it?  Because God said?

Then there's the outright deceit "You won't die if you eat it." And the temptation - it looks so lovely. It's a shiny lovely fruit. And the snake is making a promise - if you eat this, you'll be as clever as God.  And that's what God doesn't want. He wants you to be safe - docile - tamed. He wants you under his thumb. He doesn't want you knowing what he knows - how can he be God if you're just as god like?  And that's the snake's hookline - you can be gods.

So they go for it. And all this time later, we've got global warming and "Let it Shine".

Now I don't believe in a literal Adam and Eve.  I mean, there was clearly a first homo sapiens sapiens but the pair in the garden, the snake, the whole thing - it's a fable. It's saying this is how it is - you give us a job to do, we'll get it wrong. Give us something beautiful and we'll foul it up. It's an accurate deactivation of us.

But there's a symmetry of disobedience and obedience, in the story of God and humans.

Eve is born from a man. She disobeys and then so does the man. The world is cursed.

Then a woman obeys. She is told she will carry God's son and says OK. The child is born. And then he obeys. In the desert he is offered choices - an easy life, with compromises and  bowing down to the Evil one - or a life where God is supreme and his law is what matters.

He chooses God's way, even if it's harder. Even if it leads to a cross.

And our human ability to mess it all up isn't taken away. But it's made possible for our nature to be picked up, cleansed, refined, carried up into God by the obedience of that second Son of God, overturning the disobedience of the first.

To think of ourselves, to be selfish, to want the easy way - that's our temptations every day. We're not strong, we're not clever, we're not holy. We face our own struggles, temptations and deserts.  But we follow the One who chose the right way. And he'll lift us up in the end.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Curse of the Female Vicar

It's very exciting that "Kevin", who posted on my original post about the Maulden Church Plastic Chairs Scandal, appears in fact to be the complainant in the piece. And I may have gained a scoop in his revelation that it was the Archdeacon of Bedford who suggested he complain to the diocese.

But I just want to focus on the Mail's reporting of the matter. And then focus down on one word.

You may, if you feel strong, scroll down to the readers' comments. Some of which are quite rational and charitable. Others of which will be recycled and end up as letters in " Writes of the Church."

But I was interested in the first word in the headline: "female". "Female vicar faces the SACK after one worshipper complains about her putting a children's plastic table and chairs inside her 12th century church".

What modifiers might have relevance in this headline? "Atheist", perhaps. "Kevin-loathing", maybe. "...with shares in the plastic furniture industry" would be pertinent. But "female"? Is Lynda Klimas's gender relevant because it makes her more considerate of children? Or less careful of the feelings of Kevins? Or less respectful of the due processes of the Church of England and workings of English Heritage and the Victorian Society?

We're not told. It just shouts there, in the headline, like it makes any difference. It's  an odd world.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Beds but no Table or Chairs on Sunday

The suspicion of Husborne Crawley folk that people from Maulden are complete "moonrakers" is apparently confirmed.

Yes, a parishioner has complained that the tiny table and chairs the vicar has put in for the kids is in breach of ecclesiastical law.

Now I'm no student of ecclesiastical law. But I can't see any evidence that the vicar has bolted the kids' table to a reredos of great historical importance. The chairs aren't screwed onto a credence table. They're just sitting around, freeform and dumb, like, allegedly,  certain parishioners of Maulden parish.

As far as I'm aware the vicar hasn't used the kids' table as an altar. She hasn't sacrificed a rabbit to one of the chairs under the misapprehension that it's an old Bedfordshire god. She's just given the kids - whether one or many - somewhere to sit and crayon while the service is going on.

Reverend Lynda Klimas is not allowed to comment on the grievance until the matter is settled. Which is just as well. Because the words "anyone with any critical faculties would never have allowed this half-witted complaint to get any further than the edges of their own skull" would be terribly uncharitable.

Oh, and "Beds on Sunday": you mean "lifelong prohibition" in your headline, not "lifelong probation". And clearly no, she doesn't.

And if you're "Beds on Sunday" - what you doing publishing posts on Thursday? Trade descriptions...
Vicar could face "lifelong probation" (Beds on Sunday)

Bus Lane Bonanza

The BBC writes on the astonishing news that cameras monitoring bus lanes are generating income from fines for car drivers. I haven't read the Mail's take on the story as it's probably frothing at the mouth.In an attempt to stir up a little light controversy the BBC offer us this quotation:
Motoring organisation, the RAC, said the cameras had become a "cash bonanza" for local authorities.
Well, good. Every little helps in these cash-strapped times. And, given it's Lent, we should remember that bus lane cameras are a charge on selfishness, impatience and stupidity. And that is an income stream that never dries up, but flows even as the waters from Mount Hermon.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Lent Begins

Can Beaker Folk please stop contacting the office about the "broken" heating.

The radiators are off because it's now March, when the weather warms up.

The hot water is off because it's now Lent, festival of shivering and no luxuries.

If anyone wants to discuss it I'll be down after I've checked the smart meter.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Imposition of Pancakes

Ah, the old traditions are best.

Every Shrove Tuesday we rediscover that Barney, our cook, just can't make pancakes. It's like it's something pathological.

But once we've mixed in a bit of lemon juice, the remains are dead handy for Ash Wednesday.

Monday, 27 February 2017

George Herbert's Day

Great piece of luck, Hnaef meeting the man himself in the road like that.

To give Hnaef his due, ignoring modern advice, he merely listened to George's last words. It seems that working through illnesses, and doggedly looking after your people at the cost of your own health, bring you a feast day and an eternal crown.

Before he went, Herbert showed Hnaef his diary. That's seven pastoral visits, three governors' meetings and six committees that ain't gonna be blessed by his presence today. Nor will he achieve the ten minutes between 1am and 1:10 labelled "write brilliant hymns".