Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The All Purpose Halloween / All Saints / All Souls Service

Yeah bit of a mash up. We don't really like to dwell on Christian feasts too much, when there's celebrity birthdays, and this is a perfect accelerated whizz through two plus an e'en at once.

Early trouble of course. When young Keith wandered through the meadow, dressed as a zombie with that dead, white and hair, a couple of Beaker Folk assumed it was Julian Assange and made a citizens' arrest. But after we sang a couple of sad songs about the sun dying, and cracked on in the usual Beaker manner.

All Saints (8-9) - we got the kids out the way after the Halloween slot. You know kids are fine with ghouls, ghosties and long-legged beasties. But saints are about self-denial, heroism and discipline. You don't want to worry them with that sort of stuff. They will get enough of that when they're older.

But then at 9 we switched to All Souls. Not really understanding Purgatory, and not wanting to risk anyone who might come back, we just swapped anecdotes about departed loved ones. The same as last year, as it turned out. And then floated cockle shells, each representing the loved ones, out onto the duck pond under the Ultra Violet Light.

Very moving. Quick change of mood now and we're out to light the Wicker Person and bake some potatoes.

Anyone know who won Bake Off?



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

95 Theses for the Church Today

How annoying is that? Just wandered down to the Moot House to get ready for our Reformation 500 Anniversary Service, as we reflect on how jolly all that hanging, drawing and quartering must have been. And how, deep down, everybody was probably right. And what do I find stapled to the door but a list of what I supposes, in the circumstances, I must call "theses" in church meetings. Though I prefer "whinges".

THESES FOR THE MODERN CHURCH

  1. 3 readings plus a psalm seems a bit long.
  2. We've held pebbles to reflect on the wonders of the world too many times now. Can we have something more creative?
  3. There's too many meetings. Yet we daren't not turn up in case we miss something. Can you please fix this?
  4. Nobody really cares which week you light the pink Advent candle. Please stop fighting over it.
  5. Beryl crockery is great, and it should be brought back.
  6. We're all in favour of better, Fair Trade coffee. We just don't see why it should cost more.
  7. The person to talk to visitors on Sunday mornings should be chosen by lot, and not according to the whim of the most extraverted.
  8. Long silences in services are a bit disconcerting. We worry if the Worship Leader has lost a page or passed out.
  9. Failing to switch your Mobile off before a service is probably going to cost a fortnight in Purgatory. Actually taking the call while the service is ongoing is unforgivable.
  10. We don't believe those clearly Facebooking during the service are really "Live-sharing the Good News."
  11. Ministers found playing Candy Crush during the Anthem shall be forgiven as it's quite understandable.
  12. Why can't we just play Hillsong CDs? Would save money in the long run.
  13. Can someone please explain to us how to find the Church website?
  14. In church meetings, anybody extolling on the views and virtues of the previous Minister are entitled to respect.
  15. "Lord of the Dance" is never a good idea.
  16. We like praying for the list of the dead. We just don't know why we do it. Please don't try and explain as our logic  may collapse.
  17. Five minutes is perfectly long for a sermon.
  18. Anecdotes of how clever the Minister is are never impressive.
  19. Don't try to explain theology. You're never very good at it.
  20. Especially on Trinity Sunday. Just stick to the text.
  21. On the subject of which - where do all these "special Sundays" come from? Can't we just stick to the proper ones?
  22. This Reformation business - can you remind us which side we were on?
  23. And why didn't the Catholics turn up to the Ecumenical Service on Reformation Day? What they got against it?
  24. The modern version of the Lord's Prayer sows confusion and division within the Godly and should be eschewed.
  25. Ecumenical services are always a compromise. Why do we do them? (Admitting we don't actually turn up).
  26. The wearing of hipster beards by vicars is a bit much. They must not confuse themselves with the Rend Collective. Or worse, ZZ Top.
  27. You can buy a nice tea light as soon as the money in the wall safe rattles.
  28. Obviously it's just an advisory 20p per tea light.
  29. But that's pretty reasonable. It's 50p up at the cathedral and it's not like it's a bigger tea light.
  30. Please light the tea lights from the back.
  31. If someone has lit the tea lights at the front first please be aware there's a bucket of sand next to the statue of Our Lady.
  32. Yes, she does appear to be standing on a snake.
  33. Can you stop changing the subject and just buy a tea light? We don't keep the roof on by prayer alone, you know.
  34. Why can't we have "I Vow to Thee My Country?" It's such a nice tune.
  35. Buying fridge magnets at pilgrimage sites and cathedrals is helping with the Kingdom of God and should be worth a few salvation points, surely?
  36. Greenbelt has changed, hasn't it?
  37. The local church is not like a Super Church enough. This is clearly the Minister's fault. Unless it is a Super Church.
  38. It is for the peace of the souls of guitarists everywhere and at all times that Diminished chords be abolished.
  39. The Anglican dead will not be released from the Electoral Role as long as there is someone who feels it's a shame to take them off.
  40. If you must have Pet Services, at least hold it in a tent outside.
  41. The burial of pets is wholly uncovered by the rites of most churches. This must be addressed.
  42. Light Parties are all very well but why can't the kids come as witches and ghosts?
  43. Children in church are great as long as they act like adults.
  44. Liturfical Dance? Nein Tanzen.
  45. CDs may not be as "live" as organists. But then neither are some organists.
  46. It's getting increasingly necessary we build that toilet in the bell tower.
  47. On the subject of which, we need thicker cushions. We're gradually coming round to the idea of replacing the pews with bean bags.
  48. And again - leaping from behind a tomb stone shouting "boo" after Evensong in the winter is a really dangerous thing to do.
  49. Especially when it's the vicar doing it. The church will get the legacies in the end.
  50. Regarding legacies - please stop banging on about them in the Church Magazine. It's very unsettling.
  51. Other people's sexuality is not that exciting. It's more important to know whether they'll go on a rota.
  52. When the choir sings something by Goodall, please can the vicar stop saying "I can't believe it's not Rutter." Everybody has done that joke now. 
  53. Let's not change anything.
  54. Let's not even think about changing anything.
  55. When the Minister says "Is this a building for a living, growing changing church or a museum to be preserved during the life time of this congregation" - s/he may not like the answer.
  56. Taize in prayers is lovely. But keep the prayers short in that case.
  57. Saying "The Collect for the Day" to introduce the Collect is wrong.
  58. Services when Boxing Day falls on a Sunday are just cruel to everyone.
  59. Likewise late night services Easter Eve followed by dawn services Easter Day. Yes, you may feel very mystical but it's not a joyful mysticism. It's a grumpy one.
  60. The Flower Rota is an holy thing and not to be tampered with lightly.
  61. Nobody understands when we do that thing with purple veils before Easter. Can you explain it again?
  62. Someone really ought to do something about the 5,000 half-burnt Tea Lights in the Worship Cupboard. They keep falling out onto people's heads.
  63. It's all very well the Vicar banging on about a fairer nation, sacrificial giving and the poor being blessed. But we're still voting Tory. And just don't ask us about Brexit.
  64. Visiting the unchurched to bring them into the kingdom is a holy duty, reflecting the Great Commandment, and definitely the Minister's job.
  65. Men's Breakfasts are discriminatory to women and also too early in the morning. Can we have Church Brunch instead? Maybe with turkey bacon. It's got less fat.
  66.  It is appropriate to respond with a kind of out-of-place excitement when the congregation's a bit thin.
  67. We know that bats are protected species. But maybe if they're just accidentally hit by a candlestick as they fly past?
  68. Paisley clerical shirts are always wrong.
  69. The Font being by the door may be very symbolic but it's in the way. Any chance we could put it on wheels?
  70. Decent heating is its own kind of mission.
  71. We really want to open up the building during the day. As long as someone else covers it. And nothing gets pinched.
  72. Nobody can remember which is the Minister's day off. Including the Minister. 
  73. We remember when we used to have 100s in the Sunday School. We don't really know what happened there.
  74. There is always room for another English translation of the Bible.
  75. We didn't change. Society did. So it's Society's fault.
  76. We know compact fluorescent bulbs are environmentally friendly. But we keep walking into things now.
  77. Overhead Projectors sound a bit radical. Can't we stick to printed books like St Paul did?
  78. We reserve the right to shout out answers to rhetorical questions in sermons.
  79. We need better biscuits.
  80. Just because nobody turns up to a service every week is no reason to cancel it.
  81. If more people came to church it would be great. As long as they're like us.
  82. Singing "Happy Birthday to Jesus" on Christmas morning is a bit cheesy.
  83. We need special hats to give to people who don't want to exchange the Peace. Or just have a brisk, English handshake.
  84. Except those of us who think introversion is sin. We just want to hug everyone. We'll even tell people "it will never happen" if they're particularly reluctant and grumpy.
  85. Protestantism will never really catch on. Too much hard work, trying to be saved by faith.
  86. Why can't each Minister just have one church? We're sure we lose out from sharing.
  87. We like to give the new Minister three years to drain out their enthusiasm. Then they stop trying to change things. 
  88. We'd like to sing more new songs.
  89. But don't want to have to learn them.
  90. The Baptist ability to chuck out ministers always seem a bit rough to us. Though we would like the option, obviously.
  91. This thesis left intentionally blank.
  92. High F# is a note no congregation should have to sing.
  93. Who is Luther, anyway? Is he a hymn writer? We googled him but just got some film.
  94. Yes we know these theses are a bit inward-looking.
  95. We blame the Reformation.


Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Ghost of Halloween Past

See also: 10 Things You didn't know about Halloween.

Early on I thought Jamie Doward in the Guardian had written least well-informed pieces on Halloween I've ever read. And it's a personal hobby of mine. So I've read some scorchers. But then he pulls it out of the bag late on by remembering that All Saints is actually a very old Christian festival.

Apparently Churches are putting a "Christian Spin" on Halloween. That would be the date named as "All Hallows' Eve", the day before the Christian festival of All Hallows' or All Saints' Day.

All Hallows has been celebrated since the 8th Century in Rome. Like Easter, anybody saying its dating comes from Celtic or Germanic traditions really has to deal with the problem of these feasts arising somewhere else completely. The 8th Century Romans were not Germans or Celts.

But in fact, the Beaker Folk have been celebrating Halloween since the 24th Century BC or earlier. The Beaker Folk of the farther stretches of Great Britain had a long old schlep to Stonehenge for Yule. So they would set off with their pig herds on 1st November, giving themselves a good 6 weeks.

The Harvest being over, and Beaker Britain and peaceable place, they knew they could leave the young uns and old folk at home while they went on their great adventure. But before they left, they held a journeying feast.

The old ones would remember their ancestors who made the journey before them. And in order to bring them to mind they would try to carve their images onto turnips or mangolds. This gave rise to the association, which the Celts stole, of Samhain with the dead. And also, centuries later, inspired Columbus to sail to the New World in search of a vegetable big enough to carve properly. Columbus's family had remarkably large heads, and somehow turnips weren't doing the job.

The Celts that followed rather foolishly thought that the seat of the human will was the head - when clearly, at least for many men, it is somewhat lower than that. But they took over the punkie-carving tradition. Indeed, with their superior ironworking technology they so dismayed the Beaker Folk - who had had to chip away at turnips with a bit of flint - that they just gave up and went off to live in Glastonbury. Where, generations later, their descendants met Joseph of Arimathea, who took the tradition back to the Early Church.

So Christian spin? I don't think so. Christians are merely reclaiming a tradition that the pagans reclaimed from them, that the Christians reclaimed from them, that the pagans claimed from them, that the Christians claimed from the Beaker Folk.

I hope that's clear? Happy Samhain, Halloween, All Saints', All Souls' and Eternal. See you to do this again for Christmas.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Heaven and Earth Will Pass Away

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.' (Matthew 24.30-35)
He is always near. Always at the very gates.

Has any period in time ever had such obsession with the End as our own?

Barely a week goes by without someone forecasting the end of the world. Harold Camping's end of the world made a lot of news, before he realised he was wrong. Jehovah's Witnesses on my doorstep have been known to lead with a series of world disasters - hurricanes, earthquakes, bombings - before asking me "what do you think it means?"

And I'll always say - "I reckon it means the world is going to end."

Because it is of course. It is of the very nature of this world that it is going to end. After 4 billion years of evolution, into a myriad of life forms, this world is going to end. The odds are, when the sun expands to swallow it up in 7 billion years - though the increase in solar radiation will cause CO2 levels to fall (ironically) to the point where plants can no longer photosynthesise in a couple of billion years.

Of course, the Universe will continue. For a while.

Eventually, it is reckoned by some, it will reach the point of heat death - where there is no energy difference left, no differentiation of matter - no imbalance of energy levels to create any kind of movement. We're talking 10 to the powers of 10s to the powers of 10s of years. So still time to put the kettle on.

I like to explain all this to the people on my doorstep. But they shuffle and say they've got to go and do some shopping or something.

The reason I go for the full doom option is this. Firstly, it's fun when you're less optimistic about the future than people who specifically want you to be pessimistic about the future. If they've come to tell you the world's going to end, and you get them down - you've won.

But more importantly, it's true. And it gives you a baseline. This is how it is. The best the universe can hope for, under its own steam, is a slow long decline into heat death. No human can or will be able to do anything about it. It's out of our control. All those people that say if we just fix x in the human body, we can achieve immortality - are lying. Even the universe is going to die.

Reassuring isn't it? You can go with the flow, frankly. You're not going to make a major difference to any of this.

But Jesus makes this amazing promise. The angels with trumpets, the gathering of souls, the coming on clouds - in one sense they're all myth. They're picture-stories. But they're pictures of a truth that is very real.

Beyond the world we can see there is an unseen world. Beyond the compromised truths we can understand - using science, theology, anything that we can throw at our problems - there is a real truth. Beyond the limitations of our lifespans and the finiteness even of our universe, there is an eternal world.

This world is hard, life is short and too many people are too brutal. The solutions to this world are complex, slow or even non-existent. And we all die. Yet we all see glimpses of the eternal in a moment of beauty, the laugh of a child, the holding-hands of two lovers, someone giving freely to someone in need. We know it is there. Jesus knows tall this - he lived through this place.

But in that eternal world, death is no more. Sickness has no place. The nations are healed and all those that recognise the source of all life, will receive that life forever. There are times when heaven comes near and kisses this world - when an innocent child is born in a stable in Bethlehem. When he rises in triumph from the death that could never hold him. But a time is coming when the world we see will be consumed in the world we long for, love, touch fleetingly and yet have never seen. When all the temporary things to which we cling are burnt up like a theatre curtain and we realise that we have a whole new reality to step into.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus's words will never pass away. His love for us is engraved on his hands. He will never let us go.

He is always near. Always at the very gates.

Best get ready. It could be soon.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler from the creator of the Beaker Folk.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Winter Church Maintenance

As the clocks go back, few think to themselves that their church buildings need checking over before the winter storms begin. But just a few simple bits of maintenance can make such a difference to the building's condition as the cold rains fall.

Seal Your Walls and Roof 

If you have a limestone building, be aware that even simple rain water is actually a dilute solution of carbonic acid. There is a theory that the Rollright Stones were 24 feet tall when erected - and now look at them!


Used to be bigger than Stonehenge.

There is a simple answer. Spray the whole building with a polymer resin. I normally think it's best to drop it from a helicopter. Sure, if you're Church of England they will say you should have got a faculty. But by the time your church is sealed within 3 inches of plastic, it will be water proof, frost proof and - importantly - beyond any chance of reversing the process. It's good for another 800 years!

Lubricate the Congregation

The congregation tends to slow up in the darker months of the year. Bad news for the typical English congregation, with its heavy dependence on Liturgical Dance. But rubbing a tin of Linseed Oil into each worshipper will make them flexible beyond their years. Get some into their knees and you may even be able to find some use for those old hassocks again! As used by Reverend Richard Coles on the BBC's "Strictly".

Fleeces

All the best London pubs these days are handing out fleeces so their punters can continue al-fresco drinking all the way through the year. They'll stave off hypothermia in your worshippers, and bring a nice colourful look to the service. Strict Anglo Catholics will want to use fleeces in liturgical colours While those where the preacher goes on a bit might just want to shove one over their heads.

Tidy up the Churchyard

As the year goes on, the churchyard will fill up with leaves, bringing that melancholy Autumn feel. Why not buy a few tons of leaves online and dump them in as well? It means you won't see that embarrassing member of the congregation sleeping off his hangover in the churchyard. And you won't have to worry about maintaining the headstones.

Indoor Umbrellas

If you're too scared of the church hierarchy to seal the building with waterproof polymer, you're pretty much guaranteed to get water coming through the roof. You could send a volunteer up on the roof to sort it out, but you can feel fairly sure they're going to fall off. Especially if it's Gwendolyn, who says she'll do it because she went up there on Ascension Day 1931 and she doesn't see why she can't do it again.
Instead, hand out umbrellas to everyone as they come in. They'll stay nice and dry (as long as the water level doesn't rise too much) and all that rain falling around them will bring them much closer to nature than is normal.

Holy Well

If you have a Holy Well, you may find it freezes in cold weather. A few pints of anti freeze will keep you frost-free all winter! (Warning : Do not allow pilgrims to drink the water)

Clearing Paths

You may find you have wind-blown debris covering the paths around your church. Branches, dead cats, femur bones unearthed by badgers - all can form really dangerous trip hazards. Why not just put blue and white tape around the whole place, run your services by video from your front room and come back to church in the Spring?

The Boiler

At some point in the winter, the boiler will pack up. Let's face it, it will be the most inconvenient time time imaginable and everyone is gonna freeze. If you get it serviced about now, it will fail anyway. But you've got to try haven't you? I suggest prayer.
If things get too cold, try burning the pews. Even the most ardent preserver of Victorian pitch pine will lay in with a hatchet if the temperature in the church falls below freezing. But beware! If you've sealed the building with a plastic polymer the draft will be insufficient and you'll smoke yourselves out. Congregation members staggering out of church choking before the blessing is never a good worship experience.
Members of the Anglo Catholic wing of the church will probably just prefer to light a bigger thurible.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler, from the creator of the Beaker Folk.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

The Church of England's Tribes Redefined

Major excitement on Twitter at an article at Premier Christianity, "How Evangelicals Took Over the Church of England."

Most excitement over the definitions of the three major groups in the C of E:

"The Church of England’s three major groups

Anglo-Catholics
The name given to loyal members of the Church of England who look primarily to tradition as the source of authority. They tend to espouse a Roman Catholic view of doctrine. Most are against the ordination of women.
Liberals
The group within the Church of England who believe human reason and modern insights can alter previously held Christian beliefs. They do not believe the Bible is inerrant and prefer to emphasise progressive thinking over past traditions.
Evangelicals
Used to describe those who hold exclusively to the inspiration and authority of scripture in matters of doctrine. Evangelicals also believe firmly in personal conversion and are active in spreading the gospel."


So as you can see, there is a certain focus on the negative if you're Anglo Catholic and if you are an evangelical, it's all gravy. The article goes on to claim that evangelicals invented many of the things that Anglo Catholics actually did first.

Now, here at the Beaker Folk we believe in balance in all things.

So here we go...

The Church of England’s three major groups

Anglo-Catholics
The name given to loyal members of the Church of England who look primarily to Jesus , who instituted the Mass, as the head of the Church. They balance tradition, the Bible, and reason as their sources of authority. They tend to agree with Catholic views of doctrine. Many are in favour of the ordination of women. Some are active in spreading the Gospel. Anglo-Catholics pioneered modern Christian social activism in the inner cities.
Liberals
The group within the Church of England who believe human reason and modern insights are necessary tools to interpret the Biblical message. They know it is absurd to believe the Bible is inerrant in the way some fundamentalists think it is. They prefer to think how best to understand past traditions and the Scripture in the light of modern knowledge. Liberals are respectful of humans made in God's image. Some are active in spreading the Gospel. Justice is part of the Gospel.
Evangelicals
Used to describe those who hold more tightly to the inspiration and authority of scripture in matters of doctrine, based on a tradition that dates to the end of the Middle Ages, while adopting the outward trappings of modernity. Evangelicals also believe firmly in personal conversion. Some are active in spreading the gospel.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Friday, 27 October 2017

Onward Mail Readers

The Daily Mail calls out the Oadby vicar who "bans Onward Christian Soldiers". Just like the last one did until he learned his lesson.

The Mail is dead good at trying to co-opt religion to its agenda of nationalism. But not so good when it's caring for the widow, orphan and the alien.

Maybe the vicar just needed new words?


Onward Mail Readers,
marching as to war
with the flag of Brexit
going on before.
Gove and Boris Johnson
lead against the foe
onwards 'gainst the Belgians
let this shambles go.

Onward Mail Readers....
marching as to war
with the flag of Brexit
going on before.

We must exit Europe
Free our sceptered isle
Even though our owner's
Safely in Bermuda
he's tucked up his stash
We don't care if Brexit
Makes the British nation crash.

Onward Mail Readers....

Like a fascist lynch mob
moves the Tribe of Mogg
Refugees and migrants
Better pray to God.
Saboteurs will never
'gainst the Mogg prevail
His rich arse is guarded
by the Daily Mail.

Onward Mail Readers....



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Name Him and Claim Him

It's a vexed one, isn't it? What to call a minister of religion, I mean?

I mean, there's enough trouble with priests in the Church of England's more Catholic fringes, and the Catholics themselves, being called "Father". After all, if there is one direct command we have from Jesus himself it is not to call other people Father. So that's odd. I knew an elderly vicar whose elderly mum used to call him "Father" all the time. And that's really weird.

Then if you call someone "Reverend Green" there will always be some clever-clogs saying "it should be the Reverend Green," or "Reverend Soylent Green" or "Reverend Soylent" or whatever. You can't get it right.

And now into the fray comes Cari Hamblin. I don't know who she is - apart from the wife of someone called Dr John N Hamblin. But she has given out a Twitter tip which has caused much delight:
I guess the first question is why anyone else shouldn't just call the past, preacher. Dr by their real names. Is it because they are more important than anyone else? I've never heard a doctor's husband referring to his wife as "Doctor" when out. Why would a Doctor of Theology, Philosophy or whatever be any more signified?

Then it worries me - if you're going to give their titles in public, where do you draw the line? I mean, you'd have to do it with extended family. But if you're not just going to slip up and accidentally call them "Bert" or whatever in public, it's best that you use their full courtesy title at all times, even when it's just the two of you drinking you cocoa.

And then - if a minister of religion were having an affair and the person with whom they were having an affair did that classic (apparently) mistake of shouting their name out during ecstasy. It's gonna be even more awkward explaining why you yelled out "Methodist Superintendent Derek!"

And where do you stop? Logically if you were married to a Reverend Doctor, you'd have to refer to them as "Reverend Doctor." If you were married to a monk (yeah I know, but come with me on this) you'd have to go round calling them "brother". And that could cause a lot of suspicion and unnecessary attention from the constabulary.

So I reckon you should give all people all their accreditations whenever you meet them or, if you're married to them, when out and about. We tested it with Young Keith and Charlii in Tesco in Kingston today.

But by the time Keith had got through "Hey, Reverend Doctor Deputy-Archdruid Charlii MA Bsc DipHe(Theology) FRSDru 50m Swimming Badge 5 Rose Hockey," he'd help up an entire checkout queue. And made Charlii wonder, once again, how come she had married so far below her league.

So we're going back to first names.  It's just a lot less likely to cause divorce.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Letting the Mail Know about Brexit Bias

[mailto:eileen.fitzroyrussell@gmail.com] 
Sent: 26 October 2017 19:21
To: 'university@dailymail.co.uk' <university@dailymail.co.uk>
Subject: Anti Brexit Bias at University

I went to Oxford University in the 1980s.

There was a definite anti-Brexit bias there.

People were taught to think critically. And people such as David Cameron, who was a PPE student, were taught about economics.

Anyone knowing anything about economics, or able to think critically, would be biased against Brexit. Who could have thought, 30 years before the Brexit vote, that Oxford was already biased against Brexit?

Yours etc

Archdruid Eileen Fitzroy-Russell MA





Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Religious Studies and Brexit

In response to Chris Pantson-Fire, the Under-whip for Bullying Higher Education's polite request, I've got the full annual Beaker Programme plan, and annotated it where appropriate to show the ways in which we will be reflecting on the Brexit process through it.  I'm pretty sure you can see there is no pro-Remain bias at all.

1. Druidism under Roman Rule - was Boudicca's Last Stand an attempt to re-take "control" from a Continental super-state? If so, how did it go?

2. The spread of Christianity - how did having frictionless borders contribute to the mission of St Paul and his companions?

3. The Ecumenical Councils - Was the removal of heresy a good enough reason for all the time spent in assorted "talking shops" around the Empire? Or did Nigellus Faragius have a point when he demanded the right for the British to follow Pelagius if that was what we chose?

4. The Breakdown of the Empire - Why are the years when Christian society fell apart across Europe and the Mediterranean called the "Dark Ages"? Was Andreas Plumbsom right that in recording the Sack of Rome, Augustine was being over-pessimistic and should have talked up the possibility of free trade with the Vandals?

5. The Cathars - what can we learn from the small group that pulled themselves away from the rest of the Church because they thought they were special?

6. "Cast your bread upon the waters" (Eccl 11:1) - is this any basis for a free trade policy?

7. The power of Religious Music - is "Land of Hope and Glory" a suitable anthem for a country where people will be sitting in the dark and eating turnips?

8. The parable of the Labourers - considering what would have happened to the grape crop if, when the landowner went out, all the labourers had gone back to Thrace.

9. The Prodigal Son - reflecting that there is always a chance, having made a hideous and costly mistake, to go back and try again.

10. "Render unto Caesar." Sure you could spend that money on the local Wise Woman, but hasn't your taxation gone on the clean water supply and sanitation that is keeping you well? After all, what have the Romans done for us?



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Exploding Nemo

"We need to find the causes of this Transgender Explosion," declares Norman Tebbit in the Telegraph.

Meanwhile in the Mail, those who write below the line are getting excited about a BBC programme showing a fish changing gender:
Reporting on fish changing sex is science, not politics. It doesn't really apply to humans, as the ability of most humans spontaneously to change our more - ahem - developed sex organs is remarkably limited. But the Mail readers' suspicion is that it is all part of the "transgender explosion."

I'm really hoping those Mail readers haven't watched Finding Nemo. As we all know, Nemo is a clownfish. And as those who watch QI know, clownfish are able to change from male to female.

What happens is that they are all originally male. When the oldest female dies or disappears, the most dominant male becomes female. They then mate with the next most dominant male. So for Finding Nemo to reflect clownfish accurately, Nemo's dad is now his mum - Coral, his biological Mum, having been eaten. I presume the scene where Martin turns into Martine is in some kind of special "adults-only" version of Finding Nemo that is not on general release.

Somebody really ought to bring it out. The Mail Online would probably melt. Or possibly explode.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Church of England Definitions : General Synod

General Synod (n)

1. An arrangement whereby  three houses can be fitted into one building - roughly the same as the Government's current planning policies.
2. A collection of vicars having their wages paid, and retired or independently wealthy lay people in their free time.
3. Can we get back to you on point 3 in a few years? We couldn't get the necessary 2/3 majorities  to agree the definitions and we'll have to send it back to the dioceses.
4. A way of discerning God's will by listening to anecdotes of things that happened in people's lives years ago. See also "PCC"



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Chris Heaton-Harris Makes a Little List

As Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris tries to bully universities to ensure they are teaching the true Brexit faith, we know a song about that....


As one day it may be happen that a scapegoat must be found
I've got a little list.
I've got a little list.

Of notorious Bremainers who may well be underground
and never would be missed.
Never would be missed.

There's the younger generation, who are traitors, you will see
Always opposing government, in university
and liberals and snowflakes, farmers, businesses and bars
and people in financial services or selling cars
and saboteurs, entrepreneurs, and Chancellors called Chris
they're going on the list
cos we've gone McCarthyist.


(with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan and thanks to Phil Ritchie)



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

A BBC-Balanced View of Climate Change

Reading the news about the BBC's apology for its uncritical interview with Nigel Lawson with interest.

I've mentioned the unbalanced "balance" of BBC reporting before. And it always comes down to ignorance. The interviewers tend to be pretty good at politics. But rarely seem to be much cop at science or, for that matter, religion. The same must go for the researchers / producers as otherwise we would never get Christians represented by "Christian" Voice. I doubt he should be interviewed on climate change at all, given that the science is so overwhelming you might as well interview him on the phlogiston theory. But the right person to interview Nigel Lawson on climate change, if you must, is somebody who really knows what they are talking about.

Otherwise the BBC might as well give up on its mission to inform. And, for every contentious issue, just get Jeremy Kyle in.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Monday, 23 October 2017

Jesus is Alive

The C of E's Statistics for Mission are out. And they're fairly poor, as you might imagine.

And no doubt there are many ways to respond. Some will say the Church is too old-fashioned. Too small-C conservative. Uninclined, except at glacial pace, to welcome the many people they'd want to offer a kind of blessing for things the Church would rather not think about.

And others will say the Church is too liberal. Too modern. Too compromised. That it should be hanging on to the faith once delivered to the saints. Holding fast against the tide of post-modernism.  And then people seeking truth will be attracted.

There was a man who had few followers. After he made some particularly odd pronouncements about himself he had fewer. By the time he died he had 12 blokes and a handful of women following him.

By the power of the Spirit and the love of God, on the third day he stopped being dead. The movement based not on judgement about sexual relationships nor  about exclusion, but about the simple fact he is alive, expanded - sometimes quickly, sometimes tortuously.

In places where it once ruled, it no longer exists. In places where it had a rod of iron, it is now a joke.

But that man is still alive. If not one human on earth believed it, he'd still be alive. If every knee bowed to his name, he would be no more nor no less alive.

He is alive. Tell out that one thing. Shout it against a world that has no hope, no pleasure beyond hedonism or the dulling of boredom.

They may not listen. It stops being your fault. It's not really your problem. Jesus is alive. Live like it's true - like the end is not the End. Like God holds out hope  regardless

He is alive. That's all that counts. Numbers may tell you that you're saying it well, or badly. But they may just be telling you that this generation is uncertain, or comfortable. Jesus failed in Nazareth. Maybe this time is Nazareth. Maybe we're no good, playing at home. It doesn't matter. Hold onto this truth.

Jesus is alive.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Lament for the Liverpool FC Defence

Great is the mourning on the Walton Breck Road
A lament arises from Bootle.

The Liverpool Back 4 lies in ruins
The gegenpress is broken down.

The Heavy Metal football is rusted
and we are below Watford. Watford.

The centre backs miss their headers
and the goalie can't come for crosses.

Confused, he flaps at the ball
and wonders where it went.

And where are the heroes of old?
Who could clean the boots of Alan Hansen?

Who has the venom of Tommy Smith?
The fire of Emlyn Hughes?

The commitment of Carragher?
The intelligence of Hyypia?

The bigness of Big Ron Yeats
Even the comedy value of Djimi Traore?

Bereft, Coutinho dreams of Barcelona
Sturridge wonders if that was a twinge he felt in his ankle.

Can longs for his free transfer
But he'll be lucky if Bungay Town would have him at this rate.

In vain we wait for the circling year
to bring round another transfer window.

Let these defensive clowns be gone
and let others take their place.

I mean.
Watford.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Friday, 20 October 2017

Church of England Definitions : Faculty

Faculty (noun, intransigent)

1. The ability to do something.
2. A way of discovering all the different things that will combine to stop you doing something.
3. An application to do something to Victorian architecture that the Victorians would not have hesitated to do to the architecture of previous generations, only more drastic.
4. A way to spend hours every month discussing something that isn't happening.

Completely rebuilt by the Victorians




Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

A Psalm for a Working Morning

The waves crashing down on the tormented rocks
Whilst humans gaze sadly at smartphones and clocks.
While nature is driven by sun, sea and moon
There's a five-hour workshop that's scheduled for noon.
The estuary floods, then the weary tide falls
Office workers are stranded in all-day conf calls.
But from night's dark embrace to the dawn's tender greeting
There's nothing so sweet as a late-cancelled meeting.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Thursday, 19 October 2017

An Atheist Born Every Minute

An old meme from Richard Dawkins goes round the block again thanks to Linda Beale, a comedian who seems to think atheism is still cutting-edge.
Now, I guess fundamentally I just can't see how a newborn can be an atheist. To me being an atheist requires a decision that there is no god or gods - at least an intellectual assent. A newborn baby is just a baby. If being at the default setting (ie with absolutely no opinion on the existence of god(s) is the right one, here's a few other things babies don't do:


  • Understand the philosophy of science
  • Know where Tarporley is
  • Drive cars
  • Ride bikes
  • Operate smart phones
  • Understand the metanarrative of "The Woodlanders" by Thomas Hardy
  • Write haikus
  • Get comedy
  • Use Powerpoint to create memes
  • Read Twitter
  • DIY
  • Care for pets
  • Speak Dutch - or even, let's be honest, whatever their native language is scheduled to be
  • Be smug


No, all these things have to be taught and / or learnt by experience. The only thing babies can do are drink milk, excrete and accept love. Along the way babies, as they grow into adults or comedians, will learn the power to discern, to pick up or reject ideas, to know the difference between an edgy tweet and a 3-year-old idea that was never right in the first place. They will pick up nationalities, their local culture and - hopefully - the cultures of the world. They will learn about their context in the world. They may or may not grow up in a religion, and they may or may not decide to reject it, or indeed embrace one. They may grow up in liberal families or conservative ones - and again they can choose to accept or reject. They may grow up with parents that like Elvis Presley, Russ Abbott's Comedy Madhouse or W1A - and again, they can rebel or not.

In short, babies have got a lot of learning, growing and changing to do. Don't go thinking their default setting is the right one. Babies are useless.

There's a better response to Dawkin's original comments here from Andrew Brown. Don't go "below the line." They're not very edifying.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Coming to Their Census

As the great "who plays which role in the Nativity Play" crisis draws closer, at least little Celestine is making it easier.

I mean, I'll have to write another scene. But compared to having another wannabe  Mary? Especially when the Druid's grandkid getting that gig is always gonna be controversial.

Anyway. Celestine wants to be the one in overall charge, who gets the key characters to Bethlehem.

No, not God. Augustus Caesar.

I'm very proud.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Church of Not Thinking Too Hard

Yeah, it was a strange part of my early development. I spent a year in quite a fundamentalist church.

They regarded most modern learning with suspicion. You had to be able to read 17th Century English, of course, so you could read the Bible. But science was seen as deeply suspect. Mathematics was encouraged as how else could you calculate the end of the world? But you could forget anything approaching geology or human biology.

Greek and Hebrew were regarded as unnecessary, as the Bible had already been translated perfectly. And Modern Languages were generally held to be deeply suspect, as doubting the power of God as revealed at Pentecost.

And in fact it was the languages stuff that caused me all the trouble. It was a great internal struggle. I knew I would get disfellowshipped. I liked many of the people, and knew I would have to leave them. But, you know, in the end I knew I had to be true to myself, however horrified they would all be.

So I did it. I came out as bilingual.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Monday, 16 October 2017

Shut Your North and South (or - My Kingdom for a Norse)

In the category of "Exciting News Only a Guardian Reporter Wouldn't Know is Old News..."

A historian has discovered that the divide between North and South may go all the way back to Viking days.

Let's have a think.

"Husborne Crawley."  Anglo-Saxon from start to finish.

"Derby". Danish.

Blimey. It works.

If only everybody else in the whole of history hadn't known about this before, it would be absolutely amazing. Except, in the broad sense, we all did.

Watford Gap, by the way, the place that he claims has a historical role going all the way back. totally fails as a place that divides the two.

"Watford", the village after which the Gap is named - is Anglian.

To the West are Kilsby, Barby,  Willoughby, Ashby - all Norse. Should be Saxon, according to this theory. Even Rugby is south-west of the Watling Street, for pity's sake.

To the East - sure, there's Long Buckby. But also the Haddons (Anglian), Winwick (Anglian), and - to the North East where they should definitely be all-Viking - the fantastically-named Yelvertoft. Anglian "Yelver", Norse "toft".

Proving that (a) life is always more complex than simple rules and (b) there are no measures historians won't go to, to get a grant.



Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Of Sexuality and Surgery

Burton Dasset over-excited about the news that doctors will be asking patients about their sexuality.

Spent his whole time in the appointment giving the (female) doctor details of his sexuality. Including the disturbing degree to which she features in his mostly-imaginary sex life.

Apparently she was quite surprised, took a few notes. Said thanks but it was really only going to be for statistical purposes.

Unfortunately he ran out of time. So he'll have to get his ingrowing toenail looked at another day.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Flu and Flights of Fancy

I'm going to give you a warning. The link here goes to a Daily Mail article by Katie Hopkins.

You probably don't want to follow it, but it's right I source it.

To save you the trouble of reading it - it's Katie Hopkins telling us she won't allow her child to receive the flu vaccine because he's "fit and healthy." The article is a fine example of the power of anecdote over data.

Up to the 1918/9 Spanish Flu pandemic, influenza outbreaks followed the "U shape" of many diseases, where the very young and very old were most likely to die. Spanish Flu was different. It killed young, healthy adults. People drowned as their own lungs filled with blood.

Being young and healthy, given the wrong flu strain, is no protection. If the immune system of a young, healthy person turns against their own body it can be catastrophic.

I'm not saying this year's flu will be catastrophic. The Australian outbreak has probably told us roughly what it will be like. It's much like last year's but worse. But kids are abnormally good spreaders of disease, and the wrong rogue mutation could spread like wildfire.

I won't tell you what to do about flu vaccination - it's terribly complex. But I can tell you this - don't listen to Daily Mail controversialists who have to delete large numbers of tweets because they don't think very well.

They're not a very good example.




Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

When Worship Leaders Go Rogue

You know how it is with Worship Leaders.

There are some who are sensitive. Introduce the songs and/or liturgy and/or tea light ignition with appropriate sensitivity. Respond to where people appear to be. Listen to the Spirit. Generally encourage people to recognise God's presence. Then get out the way.

And there are others who just introduce the songs and crack on. That's OK. You're not introducing your personality into the service to any great extent. But then some people don't have the kind of personality you really want to introduce into the service. Should you have that kind of personality, and you're leading a service - just shouting out the numbers / titles is exactly what you should be doing.

And then there are are the others who use every space between items in the service to tell us about their previous spiritual experiences. To share their home-spun philosophies. To read great chunks of scripture out. In short, to just really let people know just what God really wants them to just really know. And to enable them to just really get close to  God in a way that is just really - you know. Real.

I'm not going to tell you what type of leader Jerbert is.

 Let's just really assure you that his knees aren't actually broken. I'm much better with a cricket bat than that. What does he think I am? An amateur?




Looking for  a Christmas present for the churchgoer in your life? Or are you in need of a book to make you laugh at and think about the church? Well you probably need "Writes of the Church  -  Gripes and Grumbles of People in the Pews" - a perfect stocking filler.  From Amazon, BRF and good Christian bookshops.
A queue of people at the vicarage door, holding letters. The vicar is hiding behind the curtains.
Writes of the Church - On sale now and perfect for Christmas

Paul Says, Sort it Out

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be
known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in
everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Php 4.1-9)
Quick quote from "Writes of the Church" if I may.....

Dear Sir 
The vicar has suspended me from leading prayers in church.  Just because instead of standard “confessions”, I read out the names of a number of worshippers, and what they needed forgiveness for.
Makes you wonder what he is hiding.
Dr Sandra Ireland
We don't what happened to make Euodia and Syntyche fall out. Paul is kind enough not to mention the actual problem. Maybe it was a disagreement over who was on the flower rota that Sunday. Maybe one or the other had, like Dr Ireland, decided she was going to announce the other's sins to the church. Or was it a row over who was most important?

Doesn't matter. Whatever the row was about, it had made it to Paul. And Paul is concerned. Because a Church is not meant to have such rows that they make it all the way across the Roman Empire.

What I don't think it was, was a clear cut disagreement about something that really mattered. You know, like Paul telling Peter he was wrong about the Gentiles. This is less important, less arguable and therefore more toxic. The disagreement of the organist that thinks he should pick all the anthems and the vicar's decided for him. Of the powerful chap on the PCC who wasn't asked to be on the Christingle planning committee. Of the priest who never got the nod when a vacancy for canon came up.

So Euodia and Syntyche sit there as a reminder forever that churches don't grow or fall by their precision of doctrine - or Paul would have told them the answer. They aren't broken by one piece of dodgy furniture or architecture - in Paul's day they didn't even have buildings. But they can be poisoned by the little stuff - the grumblings and petty ambitions.

And yet the better way is given. Stop moaning about each other. Sort things out clearly. Be gentle.

Then pray, and give thanks to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, can flow from us to others - if we just let it flow in, first.