Friday, 26 May 2017

Death of a Groundhog

It is with sadness that I report that the Beaker Earless Bunny, aka the Groundhog, has passed to the pastures where the grass is juicy and the carrots eternal.

In keeping with Beaker custom, we launched her fiery little funeral ship out from Duckhenge and into the Duck Pond. There was a funerary procession from our trained enclosed penguin order, the Sisters of the Holy Haddock.

Thanks to our neighbours the Guinea Pig Worshippers of Stewartby, who seem to have forgiven us for the time we accidentally ate their little furry gods as Peruvian tapas. The Great Guinea Pig himself said a few words. But as they just sounded like whistles and grunts we've no idea what they were.

We're very sad. She was short-tempered, short-sighted and inclined to attack at the smell of blood. But we loved her.

Service of Celebrity Non-Apology

Archdruid: Please remove your tin hat. This is a holy place.

Rufus Hound: But I'm a freethinking hipster actor-comedian with more followers than God.  I bow to no-one. Especially not the child-murdering government.

All: Sorry what?

Rufus Hound: I may have to make a Nazi allusion at this point, as Ken Livingstone is unavailable for comment.

Archdruid: Maybe inappropriate?

Rufus Hound: I'm sorry if anyone was offended by that comment. But I do seriously think it. So if you're offended it's your own fault. And I am the free-ranging poor person's Russell Brand.

All: Nobody's that poor.

Rufus Hound: Obviously when I say "think", that is probably the wrong word.

All: No kidding.

Rufus Hound: More kind of.... wondering? Behold my wondrous beard.

Archdruid: Can someone please take Mr Hound's spade from him?

All: Fraid not. That hole is already too deep for us to get down. And he just hit the water table.

Rufus Hound: Look, can we just delete this liturgy, fill in the hole and pretend nothing ever happened?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Failed Church Advertising Slogans

God hates you - Go to Church and he won't.

Headache? Tense, nervous headache? Light a tea light.

£5 will pay for a stone in the wall of our new kitchen. For 50 quid the vicar won't visit for a year. Promise.

Methodism: Probably the best liberal Arminianism in the world.

This is a man's world.

The Rapture. It will give you wings!

The Church of England. Believe what you like. The coffee's awful regardless.

The sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous. Please donate to our church  roof appeal.

Are you a man looking for women? Go to Church.

Ch__ch what's missing? An engagement with the whole post-Constantinian situation.

You only get an "oou" with homoousious.

Are you a man looking for men? Go to Church. But be discreet. Especially if you end up as a bishop.

Vatican II. The best a modernist can get.

What's the worst that could happen? You could end up in Hell.

If St John the Evangelist Had Been on an Effective Writing Course

Thank you to Burton for this morning's reading of John 16: 16-20 "if John had been on an Effective Writing Course."

I'm impressed that Burton managed to get the whole discourse down to 19 words. Course I am.

But I can't help thinking he's lost the poetry.

Meanwhile, good news after the dawn Ascension Day service on the roof of the Moot House. Only two cases of vertigo and three broken bones.

Next year we really should use a building with a flat roof.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Hearts on Fire

Apologies to the group of newcomers who turned up to this lunchtime's service and were clearly disappointed.

Obviously a problem with spell checking when Burton produced the poster.

That was supposed to be "Informal Worship." Informal. Not "Infernal".

Sunday, 21 May 2017

An Unknown God

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.”
‘Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’ (Acts 17.22-31)
Nothing I like better, I'm afraid, that some one with a career in sales or a degree in media telling me, on the basis of my Archdruical pointy hat, that science has disproved religion. I like to dig out the handbag my Oxford degree in Chemistry (special subject Quantum Chemistry, since you ask) and say "well I'm not sure I agree." They won't be bright enough to be worth arguing with, after all. Not because of their degree or their careers - after all, Trump is basically in sales and he's done all right - but because their foolish question has shown up their uncritical acceptance of third-hand arguments.

Of course I don't just leave them empty-handed. Reaching into the special "other" section in my handbag, I pull out a sachet of instant "spaghetti monster" pasta bolognaise, squeeze it out into their hand, and say "behold your noodly god."

Their reasoning hasn't reached as far as Paul, off the cuff, in Athens 2,000 years ago. They deserve nothing better than being patronised and a handful of mince.

What's one great thing that the existence of religions, of science, of magic teach us? Even the existence of magical thinking? It's that human beings constantly look for explanations and meaning. In a wild world, we want to know how and why things happen, and ideally what will happen next.

And so when the wind blows through the trees and the trees move - the Greek thinks of Aeolus, sending the breezes in the forms of horses. The Christian is reminded of the Spirit of God, who breathes on the waters of creation and breathes life into every human. And the meteorologist tells us about high and low pressure areas, then tells us there certainly won't be a hurricane.

Paul is in Athens and the Greeks are the number one searchers for meaning. They have scientists. They have mathematicians. They have many schools of philosophers - at least one of which is already denying the gods exist. They have hundreds of gods - big gods, small gods, household gods, tree-gods, lake-gods. As if they didn't have enough gods they would, when encountering other nations, find out about their gods - sometimes they would work out which of their own gods they equated to. Sometimes they would just add them in. That's the great thing about polytheist paganism - always room for one more up top.

So Athens is as littered with shrines as Central London is with posters advertising leftwing rallies.

And Paul starts with praise - and never slips into anything other than a reasonable discussion. "I see you are very religious" - ironic, though, as the people of the Areopagus - of Mars Hill - are inclined to sit around dispassionately discussing the latest new religious idea.

They must be so religious, they even worship the god they don't know. They're probably thinking that's just the sort of god you don't want to get all upset with you - one you don't know anything about. How will that god respond if you don't make him or her offerings? You don't know. That's the problem with unknown gods.  So up goes another altar.

Paul says - let me tell you about the unknown god. He's not so unknown to the Jews. In fact, he's even told us hims name.  Though we cant say it....
By Юрий Рудницкий - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

He's the God who made the heaven and the earth - and all the things you ascribe to your gods - the cycles of the seasons, the wildness of the sea, the wind - they all ultimately go back to him.  In fact - all your gods are just ways of coming to a limited understanding of what God is like - but full marks for trying. Your greatest god of all - Zeuss - one of your poets said "in him we live and move and have our being". And in doing that, your poet was actually managing to understand what the true God is like. God is not a separate god, like an outsized human being, like your gods. He doesn't live on a mountain, though we say the lightning comes from him as it does from Zeuss. Because even the mountains, the lightning, the heavens and the earth come from him and totally depend on him at all times.

This is why no scientific evidence could ever be found for God, why no scientific experiment could ever reveal God. Because "in him we live and move and have our being" - even our science depends totally on God.

But, says Paul - there's more. The Greek gods occasionally came to earth.  This normally happened when Zeuss was full of the joys of spring and decided he wanted to become the father of a few more demigods. But it happened. Well, this God I am telling you also came to visit. You won't find God in a stone statue, in a bronze idol - you won't trap God's essence in a stream or a hill or a tree or all the other places you look for gods. The true God came to earth as a human being - died - and God raised him from the dead. Now you've got a short time to decide whether this is the true God or not. Because he's coming back.

Presented with this, we know, the Greeks of the Areopagus said "thanks, that's very interesting.  We'll have a good think."

But it's a challenge for us today. Where do we put our worship? Into the society we live in - into political creeds - into our own pleasure, our own belongings, our own self-image? Do we create our own unknown gods - because we don't know that they are gods? Or do we put all our hope in the God who made everything, in whom we live and move and have our being - who does not exist just as a philosophical concept or a reason to sing pretty hymns and burn incense, but exists as the force behind the universe, and as the man who died on a cross to show us what he's like?

That unknown God has made himself known. If we gaze on Jesus, we will know him more and more.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Fear of Hell Fire

I was just thinking back to the days before I became a Christian.

Now, it's a recorded fact of parish history that my family were Extremely Primitive Methodists.  These faithful people rejected all use of artificial heating and lighting during worship. They were a devout folk, who suffered terribly from chilblains. Especially in the cold winter of 1962-3, when they were wiped out during a particularly long sermon.

My parents were blessed to be away that particular week. Returning to find that Bogwulf Chapel was full of dead Wesleyans, they resolved not to bring their children up in any faith at all. They figured this would increase our chances of not dying in cold churches.

As a result, my siblings and I were brought up with no identifiable religion. Sure, my grandfather was a great fan of "Songs of Praise" - at least until that awful accident involving the hay bailer that meant my father inherited the Big House. But I was given an upbringing free from dogma and certainty. I received my degree in Chemistry, and was prepared for a life in the secular world.

But then, in my early 20s, I was presented with an unexpected outlook on life. That the reliable, consistent world I had always believed in was underpinned with a reliable, consistent Deity in whom "we live and move and have our being." That this universe, which has produced the amazing attribute of creatures with personalities, might actually have been brought into being by person or persons. Who were / was deeply involved in my life - interested in, and loved, me.

I was drawn by love and grace.  I wasn't terrified by Hell. Wasn't running from sin. Not seeking to flee the fear of the wrath to come.

Oh no.  The Church had to tell me about all that, after I became a Christian.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Politicians Who Have Been Treated Nearly as Unfairly as Donald Trump

Since nobody has suffered worse than Donny, how about the people who got close...


  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Sir Thomas More
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Joan of Arc
  • Harry Wu
  • Lady Jane Grey
  • Benedicto Kiwanuka
  • Jo Cox
  • Alexander Dubček
  • Leon Trotsky
  • Olaf Palme
  • Mohammad Najibullah

Still, people have been mean to Donald Trump.  Worse all round.

All Religions and Nones

Looking at the rise of the "nones" - those of no religion - and seeing a real marketing - sorry, mission - opportunity.

I suspect the nones phenomenon will be temporary. Firstly because nonreligious people tend to breed less than religious ones. But also because we are entering strange days worldwide. And dark, uncertain times create a need for certainty, a narrative that all will be OK. And the neoliberal faith that told us that everything was brilliant has been convincingly shown to be untrue.

Obviously there will always be people that put their faith in an allegedly perfect old bloke with a beard who will look after us all.  But frankly I don't believe Jeremy Corbyn will get elected as PM. So the 400 people who follow him around will have to find another Messiah soon. That shouldn't be a problem to them. They've followed a few.

So, to step into this spiritual void, I'm creating the Beaker Nones Retreat. The perfect pilgrimage for people of all religions and nones.

DAY 1

12 noon - welcome and lunch

2 pm - a nice walk in the countryside (nymphs please stay in the steam. No point sowing doubt so early.)

4 pm - afternoon tea and cakes

5 pm - "Enya in the Afternoon" with joss sticks and tea lights

6.30 pm - Supper

8 pm - Workshop - "What's it all about?"

9.30 - Bar (donations only - no licence)

DAY 2

8 am - "Thought for the Day" from the Cat's Book of Wisdom

8.30 am - Breakfast

9 am - The Waterboys: Seeing the whole of the Moon

11 am - Cafe Non-church  (coffee in the Beaker Barista Bar, where we've decked a coffee shop out with pews for that traditional feel)

11 am - for the kids - Messy Non-Church (drawing, basically)

1 pm - Lunch

2.30 pm - Ain't Science Great? A look at the wonders of the universe in such a way we all go "Woo!" But without any woo.

4 pm - Herbal Tea. It tastes vile, but you feel good.

5 pm - A walk in the Woods. (Dryads please confine yourselves to the trees. Don't want to shake anyone's faith.)

6 pm - Myth, Magick, Law Codes, History, Biography - how to tell the difference. And still make category errors.

7 pm - Supper

8 pm onwards - The Great Silence. As everyone sneaks off to the pub.

DAY 3

8 am - Morning Rituals: Shaking heads sadly, muttering about last night, looking sheepish

9 am - Breakfast-  Muesli. It's like Calvinism but without the happy bit for some at the end.

10 am - A Few Final Thoughts-  Hnaef tells us all about the brilliant Red Hat he got in America.

11 am - Tennis. Nobody understands the rules and nobody knows how to do it. Except posh people. Just like the Church of England, thinking about it.

1 pm - Lunch and Departure to the real world.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Why is this Not News?

I dunno.  We had 57 people at yesterday's Nylon Night Shirt Nocturne service.

Not a thing on the Mainstream Media.  Anybody would think they're trying to keep nylon-based alt:liturgy services out of the news.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Service for the Last Game at White Hart Lane

Archdruid: The last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Man Utd's last game at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: Rooney's last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Harry Kane's last goal at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last football game last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Pochettino's last game at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: Sky Sports' last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Gary Neville's last commentary from White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: Spurs' last home game at White Hart Lane.

All: The last game in North London at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The Bishop of Willesden's last game at White Hart Lane.

All: His last Twitter complaint from the last game at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last kick off at White Hart Lane.

All: Lloris's last save at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last throw in at White Hart Lane.

All: The last goal at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last free kick at White Hart Lane.

All: The last corner kick at White Hart Lane..

Archdruid: The last final game of the season at White Hart Lane.

All: The last final whistle at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The final sulk from Mourinho at White Hart Lane.

Burton Dasset: What is White Hart Lane?


(Inspired by the relentless reminders of Sky Sports)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

1970s Week of Prayer

Reflecting the determination of both the Labour and Conservative Parties to return us to different aspects of the 1970s, we are celebrating a 70s Week of Prayer.

In our "exciting" 70s worship, we will sing exclusively from contemporary Christian music of the 1970s. The sermons will feature all the most contemporary theological themes - that God is dead, that the Bible was made up, that heaven, hell and judgement don't exist and that we should have a deep interest in the "true" historical Jesus never really existed.

Remarkably, the mixture of Sounds of Living Waters, Timothy Dudley-Smith and Sydney Carter that we will be using for our worship this week is exactly the same as that found when churches in 2017 decide they need to sing something "modern".

The "Punk Eucharist" on Sunday will be an attempt to attract the "Youth" which will utterly fail, as Hnaef, resplendent in a red hat and safety pins, tells everybody how hip he is. NB no spitting.

After each service, we will discover that the selection of Austin and Hillman cars in which people have driven to Church will not start, and hold an Act of Jump-Starts in the car park.

On Monday, our Liturgy of Power Cuts will include the lighting of candles and tipping of rubbish in the street.

Monday will also be the last day of our 70s Worship Theme Week.  That's right. It's a three day week.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Service for the First Day of Hayfever

Archdruid: Peace be... Atchoo!

All: And also Atchoo..

Hymn: Here Comes the Sun

Archdruid: Hay, hay whadya say?

All: Pollen blew your mind away.

Archdruid: Atchoo!

All: And Atchoo too.

Reading:

All flesh is like grass
But not all flesh likes grass.
Let righteousness flow like streams of tears
Flowing down the face of the Archdruid.
Let our love burn as hot
As the irritation in her eyes.
Let us be as pollen to the world
In principle a good thing, but irritating to everyone we encounter.

The Offering of Useless Folk Remedies

Archdruid: Local honey! Lovely. I'll put it on my toast. It's useless for hay fever obviously.

Richard Dawkins: Did someone mention honey?

All: Leave it, Richard. That's all in the past.

Archdruid: Atchoo!

All: And Atchoo too!

Hymn: All things blight and miserable, all pollen mean and small.

Blessing

Archdruid: Atchoo!

All: Bless you!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Apple Blossom and Rhubarb Service

What a wonderful Apple Blossom and Rhubarb service that was!  A celebration of all that is best about the Spring.

Albeit in the case of the rhubarb, I'm not convinced the service will have helped.  Bolted something chronic this year. 

Now we all know that rhubarb bolts when the plant's under stress. And Marston has suggested maybe it's suffering from the dry winter.  But I reckon - given its red colour - that it's actually thinking about the General Election. A plant that is happiest in the former industrial areas of Yorkshire? It clearly can't believe what Jeremy Corbyn is doing.

Somebody suggested dumping a load of manure on it. But I'm not convinced that Theresa May's approach to Brexit is going to help that much,

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Consecration of the Druid of the Doily Shed

I see a heretical Anglican sect  - believing in Lay Presidency - has apparently ordained itself a bishop in Newcastle, despite the fact the person concerned has been a curate at an Anglican Church for about 30 years. I guess in the end he got fed up with running the youth group.

Had the same myself a few years ago. The Quivering Brethren decided they wanted a rep somewhere closer to the middle of the country, and appointed Yardley Gobion as the "Druid of the Doily Shed". Their belief being that old Yardley would thereby enable them to make inroads into the Beaker Folk, drawing the gentle people of Husborne Crawley into a religion that involved no pointy hats, no women Archdruids and a lot of quivering.

So he spent a while sat there among the doilies, issuing scary threats about the afterlife,  and occasionally quivering. But ultimately their choice of the Doily Shed as an operating base for the new Druid was flawed. What with it having a lock and everything. And me having the key.

If you were wondering, the current record for eating nothing but doilies until resigning a Druidship is 2 days. And he spent the next few days in isolation in the loo. Nobody has tried it since.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Popular Alliance

Brothers and Sisters. It has become clear that, for too long, by being divided against each other, we have allowed the oppressive right-wing hegemony to rule.

There is only one way for us to defeat the Romans. And that is for us to unite in a Popular Alliance.

So we call upon the People's Front of Judea, the Judean People's Front, Judean Popular People's Front, the Essenes, the Campaign for Free Galilee and the Zealots to join in the common struggle.

Although we may have trouble with the Popular Front.

Splitter.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

That Was the Church that Wasn't

Somewhat belatedly I have read Peter Hitchens' article on the good old C of E as he remembers it.

There used to be an old saying among folklorists. They said that people always used to say it was the previous generation that believed in fairies. Maybe in the same way people always think it was their childhood - or the last generation - when the Church of England was last truly the Church of England.

England's Dreaming

To some degree this is always a myth. Let's look at the history of the C of E since the Reformation. First up it got converted back to Catholicism - then back again .Then a certain amount of Prayer Book-based stability under Elizabeth and James I - then the Puritans threw all the organs out on the grounds that any kind of enjoyment was unbiblical. Many village churches then had "quires" or "bands" right up to the Oxford Movement. So in Thomas Hardy's own village of Stinsford the tradition of singing with an organ goes back no further than about 1840. About the same time that Hawker of Morwenstow invented the Harvest Festival.

By that time, the Industrial Revolution was underway. Many left the churches, headed into the big cities and took to lives of poverty, vice and not getting up on Sunday mornings. The figure for regular worshippers, at the height of the Victorian Church's power, was about 40% of the population - but a tiny fraction of that in the poor districts of London. It declined into the early 20th Century. And while the upper classes continued to provide their younger, less intelligent sons to be ministers, the upper classes themselves barely bothered to go to church otherwise.

So Peter Hitchens' long-lasting tradition - the good old C of E at prayer - really only began in the middle of the 19th Century. And really only lasted till the early decades of the 20th Century. The timeless beauty of the BCP and the KJV may go back 400 or so years - but the traditions built around them are bumpy, uneven and - for the most part - of terribly short duration. The good old C of E, like folk dance, children dancing round a maypole, arts n crafts and Imperialism, is a Victorian invention. We may not see its like again. But then we probably never really did.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Liturgy of Ed Winchester

Archdruid: Hi! I'm Ed Winchester!

Hnaef: No - I'm Ed Winchester!

Spartacus: No - I'm Ed Winchester!

Young Keith: I'm Ed Winchester! And so's my wife!

All: We're Ed Winchester!

Ed Winchester: So who am I?


The Archdruid's General Election Piety

If there's two things an election generates in the world of Social Media, it's snark and piety.

Snark we can accept as a given, I believe. So let's turn to piety - or possibly piousness. Never know the difference. People love their pious clichés. Mostly the people to the Left. The C of E may be the Tory Party at prayer, but if you're looking for a set of uplifting abstract concepts to give everybody unlimited benefits in an unspecified future, Socialism is a lot closer to a religion.

But the important thing about piety is - it gets retweets. Your little trite "This election, vote for the kind of party your puppy would" is gonna get more airplay than "I'm not convinced a commitment to leaving the Single Market will have long-term upside benefits on East Midlands job creation."

So my turn. What do I want to see?

I want a Britain that we can all unite behind. One where jobs fall from trees and there is a community centre on every street corner. A place where, given enough cynicism and hatred, even people who didn't go Cambridge can make a living as comedians.

A land where tax is low and benefits are high. Where schools produce open-minded astronauts to fill the endless demand for space jobs. Where only the politicians' jobs are replaced by robots.

I want a land where our borders are open to everybody - except terrorists and people coming to take our jobs. Where smoking is not just forbidden in public buildings, but smokers are openly persecuted. Where nobody ever commits crime - not because of fear of being caught, or overcrowded riot-ridden prisons, but because they just don't want to.

I want a land where, despite pulling out of Europe and refusing to pay our dues and acting like the English Channel is 4,000 miles wide, we are more prosperous than today, with the money to achieve social justice and world-leading businesses. Where we can change everything, yet go on as we are.

Sorry. Sorry. Dunno what happened there. Got carried away. That last paragraph is just wishful thinking.

Monday, 1 May 2017

May Morning

As I get older I wonder whether these old traditions are really worth it.

I mean, yeah. Dancing around in the dews of midnight to celebrate the mid-point between astronomical milestones. You can see the attraction. But once you get past 50 you start to wonder whether just turning in after "Line of Duty" might not be a better idea.

So I left it to Hnaef. He's a bit younger. And he's got a new Red Hat which he thinks gives him magical powers. So he supervised the ignition of the Wicker Person while I watched with a gin and tonic from the study windows.

Not such a bad casualty count this year - four minor burns and one person hit by an exploding potato.

Meanwhile in the Trim Valley, the letters to the Church Magazine are out again. And people frolicking in those parts want to watch out for the ubiquitous camera of Dr Ireland... 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Annual Moot Meeting - Agenda

1.  Opening devotions and prayers that this won't go on too long

2. Minutes of the last meeting.  All will approve them as nobody can remember the last meeting.

3. Explanations as to why nobody has done anything about the matters arising from the last meeting. Legitimate excuses include:
a) Forgot
b) Definitely going to do it this year
c) Died
d) Going to do it next week, for sure.
e) Made up claims to have done something.

4. Treasurer's Report:
a)Why we are in such a poor financial state.
b) Open discussion: Why we can't do anything about it.
c) Tutting about the price of heating these days.

5. Archdruid's Report. Including why everybody I get frustrated with all year, is in fact invaluable.

6. Property Report

7. Mission Report
a) Annual explanation why the Mission Committee hasn't met
b) Vague assurances to meet this year,

8. Membership Report (we're all a year older)

9. Another Other Business: Free-form grandstanding about hobby horses, saved up for 12 months

10.  Closing devotions and thanksgiving this only happens once a year

Apologies for Absence will be derived by trying to remember all the people who aren't here.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lament for the Fall of the Garden Bridge

Fallen! Fallen is the Bridge that Never Was!
The partners of Ove Arup weep into their trebles.

The council tax payers of London weep
for their hard-earned money has been poured into the Thames.

They have cast their bread on the waters.
Will it ever return to them?

The Temple of Joanna is no more than drawings on a wall.
A glint in the poneytail of a bald, 50 year old hipster.

Looks perfectly nice without a garden

The parakeets have nowhere to rest
and the urban foxes no place to find a home.

It would have been an oasis on a river
Pointlessly spanning the Thames.

When a cycle bridge might at least have reduced the traffic
and done wonders for the Lycra industry.

Two projects Boris Johnson put his name to
Three follies he tried to foist on the public.

An airport in the sea, a bridge with no sense
And Brexit, which devours the money of those that vote for it.

He's not funny.
He's a privileged idiot.

Service for Ed Balls Day

Archdruid: Ed Balls.

All: And Ed Balls to you to.

Hymn (to the tune of "Go West" or "Give Thanks with a Grapefruit Tart")

Ed Balls, E-d Balls
Ed Balls, E-d Balls.
Ed Balls, Ed Balls
Ed Balls, Ed Balls. (Repeat)

Reading: Vanity of vanities

Collect

May we, who are every day afflicted with cares on every side
Pay more attention to what we are saying than what others say about us.
Keep us from accidentally typing dodgy Google search terms into our Social Media postings
And deliver us from screenshots.
Lest we be like Ed Balls, reduced from a heavyweight politician
To being that podgy bloke on the telly.
Amen.

Liturgical Dance


Archdruid: Ed Balls to you

All: And Ed Balls to you too.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Collect for Asparagus

Kelvin Holdsworth has already done most of the jokes about Worcester Cathedral's service of blessing asparagus.

So instead I shall just offer up this Collect.

NB before the reading of the prayer, the sparrow grass should be asperged with an aspergillum. This joke actually works better in French, but still.

Oh God, who has taught us that all people are but grass, and who sees every sparrow that falls,
May we, whose wee turns sulfurous when we eat the blessed asparagus, remember there is a place where everything smells like that, all the time, and forever. And so be encouraged ever to stay on the narrow path, between the raised beds, that leads to your garden of delights.  Amen.

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.