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Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Beaker Blog Review of the Year

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its blogs away. But here, at the end of the year, a brief review of the most popular and oddest of the Beaker Year. Burton has crunched the numbers, pivoted the tables, and drunk far too much coffee, and here are the results.

Most popular page / post

The most popular page anyone visits, fifteen times more so than anything else, is the Home Page.  This is reassuring, as it tells me that many people come to see us frequently just to see what's going on - neither waiting for Facebook nor Twitter. Thou good and faithful Beaker People, have a happy new year!  The third most popular is like unto it: the "Folk" page, which tells you who everybody is.  I really should update it some time. Outside of those two, the actual blog posts that made the top 20 this year are as follows. You will note that three of them are from previous years although "Through the Bible with Nigel Farage" was more like one of those Christmas hits that don't go away until March.

  1. If Clergy Ads Told the Full Story 
  2. Those Newer Versions of Hymn Books 
  3. Church Strapline Generator
  4.  Liturgy of Not Passing on Social Media Scares
  5. Contemporary Christianity Exam (2012)
  6. Failed Church Advertising Slogans
  7. Church of England's Tribes Redefined
  8. School for Snowflakes 
  9. The Trump Samaritan
  10. Anglican BAPs: Those 50 Tricky Secret Questions (2014)
  11. The Milton Keynes Statement
  12. Through the Bible with Nigel Farage (2016)
  13. Thought for the Day with John Humphreys
  14. Hymns  (Part of the "New Churchgoer" series from June
  15. Trouble with Trebles
  16. Only Purely Biblical Carols
  17. That Was the Church That Wasn't
  18. The Busiest Priest in Christendom
  19. The Church of England's Prayer for Today
  20. The Seven Deadly Sins of Church Committees

The thing that strikes the eye is that these are all generic church posts, tending to the Anglican / Methodist. The everyday life of the Beaker Folk, with exploding worship buildings, rebellions and general idiot-related noise, just goes on in the background. Which is maybe as it should be.  This pattern hasn't changed down this blog's decade or more. 

Traffic Sources

The traffic sources, however, are the most telling sign of the times. Once upon a time, the major sources of blog traffic were other blogs - and then Twitter. Today, through a general decline in blogs speaking peace unto blogs and the Beaker Facebook page, this has changed quite a lot: 

The blogs I suspect speak to one main thing - the power of sidebars. Because those with asterisks have been quiescent for at least six months, yet keep driving traffic. Apart from that, if I tell you that the first on the list drives four times as much traffic as Twitter, and at least seven times as much as the first blog (which is Thinking Anglicans, which is more of an aggregator of links than a blog in the old sense) - that gives you an idea of the sheer power of the Behemoth that is Facebook.  Put simply, it seems to me, if you want your blog to be read you need an active and growing Facebook community around it. This has weird effects - most notably moving comments from the Blog to the Facebook page.

Apart from that, I'm struck by the ecumenical nature of the blogosphere that still exists. Many of the blogs that link to this little corner of cyberspace are written by traditionalist Catholics. Many are written by Anglican women - one or two even by baptists. To you all, and all the other readers of these witterings, the Beaker Folk wish a Happy and Blessed New Year. May your tea lights never burn lop sided, and your pebbles always be thoughtful.




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Liturgy for the First Sunday after Christmas

Visiting Lay Preacher: The Lord be with you

Visiting Ocarinist: And also with you.

VLP: Where's the organist?

VO: Having a rest after Christmas. Where's the normal minister?

VLP: Having a rest after Christmas. Where's the normal replacement organist?

VO: Playing at all the other churches. Where's this church's Lay Preacher?

Nope, no choir either

VLP: Having a rest after Christmas. Where's the Wardens?

VO: Gone away to see their kids. Where's the other Lay Preacher they get in on the week after Easter?

VLP: Lanzarote. Shall we kick off the hymns?

VO: What have you picked?

VLP: Once in Royal?

VO: Too tricky.

VLP: O Come All Ye Faithful?

VO: Bit Christmassy?

VLP: We Three Kings?

VO: Too long. It brings on my panic attacks.

VLP: What can you actually play?

VO: Abba Father.

VLP: OK, let's go for it...

VO: Where's the congregation?

Ghosts: Having a rest after Christmas.

VLP:  Shall I skip the sermon?

VO: Please.

VLP: OK.  Let's go home.  Happy New Year.

VO: And also with you.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

An Heir and a Spare

All this Nativity stuff and we're awaiting the second grand-druid in a couple of weeks. I dunno. My young lad having two kids. We may have to stop calling Keith "Young Keith". I mean, he's 30 now.

On the Last "Loose Canon" Column in the Guardian

What now for Islington's liberals to read
As they visit their local barista?
The only Christian Brexit Leftist
Is now a former Guardianista.

And we, who read his text
His well-intentioned liberal fog
His Corbynite Christianity
Will have to find a different blog.

Those keyboard warriors bold
who rarely leave their hole
trudge slowly across the Internet
to find another BTL to troll.

And so he goes, our knight so bold
Who tried to be a Christian friend
to godless, vacant, self-regarding souls
He didn't do so badly, in the end.

Melissa Sparrow (Mrs)



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Friday, 29 December 2017

50 Uses for Removed Pews

  1. Sentry box for the vicar to stand and see if anyone's coming to the service
  2. Pub furniture
  3. Log cabin
  4. Doors
  5. Full-size replica of the Marie Celeste
  6. Skirting boards
  7. A kids' castle in the garden
    Church missing roof (and furniture)
    "Bad news, vicar. It's not just the pews they took out"
  8. Victorian rabbit hutch for a Victorian rabbit
  9. Raised vegetables beds 
  10. Fuel for a wood burning stove (unless varnished - very bad for the environment)
  11. Mulch
  12. Filing cupboards for old PCC minutes
  13. Gothic trellises
  14. Replica Gutenberg Printing Press
  15. Big mysterious boxes as a public art installation 
  16. Temporary cover for holes in the roof
  17. Pitch pine flooring
  18. Pulpit
  19. Building material for the church's pet wasps
  20. Shelving
  21. Cricket sight screen
  22. Add wheels and make a go kart
  23. Grinling Gibbons-themed cat scratchers
  24. The sauna that mysteriously appeared in the vicarage garden 
  25. Bat boxes - to be put anywhere but inside the church
  26. Painting icons on
  27. Really really posh pallets
  28. Box for very short readers to stand on
  29. Tree house
  30. Skateboard ramp
  31. Frames for big pictures
  32. Eastenders actor
  33. Obstacles in the Church Over 60s Assault Course
  34. Rot-proof sledge
  35. Giant bats for playing geese-ball (except in countries with any kind of animal cruelty laws)
  36. Trojan Horse 
  37. Bookshelves
  38. Plank to make the vicar walk into the village duck pond if the sermon fails to entertain
  39. Coffin for the person over whose dead body they were removed
  40. Wood panelling in one of them really old-fashioned looking studies or meetings rooms
  41. Seesaws
  42. Rustic planters
  43. Windmill
  44. Museum exhibit of what pews look like
  45. Television cabinet
  46. Dog kennel
  47. Swansea City back 4
  48. Norwegian-style "stave church"
  49. Garden shed
  50. Pews in another church where they're removing the chairs.
(Thanks to Phil Ritchie for passing on the info that Chelmsford Diocese have a 51st use)


Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Holy Innocents

Kind of pulled our celebration of extended Yule up a bit short, remembering tomorrow's saints' day.

The verses of the story of Jesus' birth voted "Most Likely to be kept out of the Nativity Play". And most likely to lead to accusations of God's capricious nature and, somewhat illogically, non-existence.

This is what happens throughout the Bible. This is what happens throughout history. The Egyptians want the Jewish babies dead. Moses gets away with it. The Hebrews destroy Jericho. But Rahab and her family are assimilated into the Hebrews; into the story of salvation. The Assyrians wipe out 11 tribes. But the Jews, and those who live with them, remain. The Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and Judah.  But a remnant returns. And Jesus re-enacts the stories of both Moses and their nation, as his family slips away.

Like those who evaded ISIS, like the Jews fleeing Hitler, like slaves on the Underground Railroad, the salvation of some is seen in the context of the suffering of so many. And the cry goes up, again and again, "How long, O Lord?"

The Holy Innocents - who never knew to choose right from wrong, who never grew to follow or reject the One who slipped away - were adopted as the earliest, youngest saints of the faith that followed him. Reflection that they suffered for Christ.

The story is not mentioned by Josephus, not mentioned outside one Gospel and the pseudo-Gospel that followed it. But that doesn't mean it didn't exist. Because in the sheer routineness of Herod's evil, one minor outrage in one little town wouldn't make much news. And five or so miles away, thirty or so years later, the death of one wannabe prophet on a cross didn't cause too much of a fuss. At the time.

So the Holy Innocents stand as a reminder of the human capacity for evil. Of the normality of viciousness, in world that has free will. Of the danger of power unchecked, and the irrational fears that power brings with it.

And that God sees it all. The Holy Innocents are remembered today as the tiniest martyrs. As the Church makes its faith in God clear - God sees one sparrow fall to earth, has compassion on all that is made. And will not forget the innocents that suffer, or who caused that suffering.

Monday, 25 December 2017

A Female Doctor: Everything Has Changed

And so one more bastion has fallen. There have been women as Prime Minister, bishops in the Church of England (even if they have not been to a proper theological college) and now Doctor Who. It seems only leader of the Labour Party is left unfeminised.

But what difference does it make having a woman play The Doctor? We have the answers:

We know The Doctor has two hearts, but what difference will one with two "X" chromosomes make?

Absolutely none. The Doctor is a bloody alien. Do you actually know what it is in the Doctor's make up that makes him male? Maybe only River knows. And she ain't singing.

Will the Doctor be viewed differently as a woman?

Yeah. When the Daleks are next planning to conquer the universe, Jodie Whittaker's marginally -improved abilities to ask directions when winding up on the wrong planet are gonna make them think twice. Her being slightly worse at arm-wrestling than Matt Smith is not going to bother aliens capable of making planets cease to exist simply by their power of thought.

Will any future Doctors be real Doctors?

No. The presence of one Doctor in the timeline who knows how to describe a colour that's not quite red,  more of a cerise, has ruined the credentials of the lot. Any Doctor regenerating from Jodie Whittaker is going to be incurably infected with cooties. Some people have declared the only True Doctor now has arisen from the regeneration of Pope Pius XII. This medevacantism recognises two divergent timestreams, in accordance with the concept of a "Pooliverse" as first expounded by the Perishers. Or something.

Won't her Tardis-Driving be worse now she's a woman?

Did the Doctor bring you back from the Pleistocene?

When the Doctor is involved in sexual tension with much-younger companions, isn't that going to be worrying?

Dunno. Has it worried you up to now?



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Beaker Christmas

So the Crib Service is over for another year.

An improvement on past years. There was no argument over why we had Six Wise People. Only four children overheated from excitement. And anybody complaining that Jesus wasn't really born in a "draughty stable with an open door" had the fire hose turned on them.

I'll be honest, there may have been too many LED Xmas lights. I mean, the service was at 4pm, but it's taken till now to be able to see well enough to actually write this post.

So now we settle in for the wait till midnight, when the Beaker Waits, led by our Beaker Ocarina Quire, will do the rounds of the community. To be greeted with the traditional hail of potato and sprout peelings. I believe some folk have laid in supplies of walnuts and catapults this year. So there may be a few lacerations.

The smell of cooking turkey hovers over the Great House, and we've the Fairytale of New York on a loop for the next 48 hours. And, though there are people less fortunate than ourselves, I only mention them to make myself feel more virtuous than everyone else. All the money's gone on the new telly.

Behind all of this, at a time liturgically 2016 years ago, a young woman is giving birth to her firstborn child. A tiny event, within a tiny family. But one that reverberates to the end of the world. Nothing is the same anymore.

Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

The Lady Doctor: Alternative Arrangements Requested

As we await the start of the career of what some people are calling the 'Lady Doctor", Jodie Whittaker, reality is starting to strike home.

Some claim that Jodie Whittaker's background is not strong enough to support the demands on her - having previously played a nurse. Whereas William Hartnell had played a series of military types, of the sort that prepared him for being the Doctor - an authority figure constantly battling invading forces.

There are rumours that a splinter movement is forming, demanding they get their own BBC, where David Bradley can offer Alternative Whovian Oversight. They have never accepted a transgender TimePeer, although they found Michelle Gomez a reassuring reminder of their childhood teachers.

As thoughts already turn to the Fourteenth Doctor, it's being pointed out that, while the Master has frequently been known to sport a devilishly handsome beard, the only time The Doctor has done so on TV has been the "War Doctor" and his straggly effort while blowing up everything. To redress the balance, appeal to the Hipster Community, and also ensure no more Lady Doctors, it's being suggested that a bearded Doctor will be just what the... erm... Doctor ordered.

The clever money is going on Richard Chartres.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Friday, 22 December 2017

The Past is a Different Country. Who'd Want to Go There?

On this glorious Iconic Britain Day, when we get back a passport colour that nobody under 40 can remember, we look forward to the restoration of these other archetypal British icons of the past:
  • Spam fritters
  • "On the Buses"
  • "Skinny Ribs" shirts
  • Casual Racism
  • Sweet rationing
  • School curry with raisins in it
  • Michael Foot
  • French Pox
  • Power cuts
  • The Longbow
  • Sham 69
  • White dog poo 
  • Singing cheerful songs in the Tube while your house is blown up
  • British Rail sandwiches
  • Cricketers batting without helmets
  • The Hillman Imp van
  • "Crossroads"
With these British icons securely reinstated, we can go boldly forwards towards the 1890s!



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Psalm to Celebrate the Reintroduction of Blue Passports

A song of descent in the world
For the blowers on their own trumpet

When we learnt that we would get the iconic British blue passport(™) back
we were like those in a dream.

Our mouths were filled with hope
our tongues with songs of glory.

Then it was said among the nations,
“They've committed economic suicide for what?

Brexit has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

Restore our gunboats, Theresa,
like in the days of Palmerston.

Those who once had reddy-purple passports
now will have blue ones.

Those who go out of the EU laughing,
thinking they've taken control,

will return with tales of woe,
and employers relocating to Ireland.


Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Most Liminal Time of the Year

Oddly enough, the shortest day was quite a long one.

It's always a tricky one - was last night the night we sing the traditional Beaker song, "Raise your banners high, Don't die, Sun, don't die" - or is that tonight?

We're doing it both. That way all bases are covered.  We gathered this afternoon to watch the sun sink below the horizon somewhere over Woburn, had a bit of a sob, then went off to the seminar on "Shane McGowan's Teeth and the Remnant Motif". Quite a neat little rhyme as well, if you're from Luton.

So the Beaker Folk are in a state of panic, wondering if the sun will rise tomorrow. Spoiler alert: yes it will. Unless other arrangements are made. And we've put on a 14 hour screening of Last of the Summer Wine Christmas specials. Many have nothing to do with Christmas, or Yule, or indeed any kind of 21st Century reality. But they numb the pain, blot out the rain, and will get people - one way or another - through to 8am tomorrow when I daresay the sun will rise through Duckhenge, which we've carefully re-arranged for the purpose.

It's the most liminal time of the year. The old year's about done, but it's not the new. Yule is here, yet it's a few days till Xmas. And the Beaker Folk, having finished work but not yet reached Christmas, lay themselves down on the damp ground and howl for the light to return.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

A Late Ordination (II)

Over at the Spectator, Melanie McDonagh tells us that it was almost inevitable that the new Bishop of London would be a woman.

I expect Melanie McDonagh is only writing for the Spectator for contractual reasons. Because given such foresight, when the bookies gave any woman no hope at all, she must have made a killing.

Ed Tomlinson told us that  really Bp Sarah should have been a bloke who went to theological college when he was young. And Melanie McDonagh says Sarah Mullally is a far cry from "her bearded predecessor, who is both theologically learned and with a profound knowledge of Orthodox Christianity." Well as far as I know Bp Sarah does not have a beard. But then if Melanie McDonagh has ever watched the stoning scene in Life of Brian she'll know that this is not an insuperable difficulty.

Then we come to the concern that the appointment of a female bishop may cause the feminization of the Church and be off-putting to men. This is a real worry. After all, we have a woman as Head of State and another as Prime Minister. And floods of men are currently leaving the country, lest they be forced by law to talk about relationships or be in touch with their feelings. Likewise, the Spectator allows women to write for it. And yet manly men are presumably still allowed to read it.

If the most important thing about being a leader is the wearing of a beard, and the only thing that stops men going to Church is the fear that a woman may be the bishop, what sort of men are we growing in this country? Are there hipsters all over Camden sobbing into their Unfiltered Hells because they have been passed over as Bishop of London for a woman? Are there devout capitalists who voted Labour at the last election because Theresa May can't grow a beard?

The new Bishop of London is a woman. She has a distinguished track record, and is familiar with operating with the Establishment. Let's pray for her and get on.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to push on. I've got a beard fitting later.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

A Late Ordination

Ed Tomlinson of the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate damns the new Bishop of London, Sarah Mullallay, with faint praise:
"What we witness, instead, is a late vocation to the church whose residentiary training was in nursing not theology. Does this not speak volumes? And does it make it a triumph for women’s ministry if she is being promoted not on merit but gender?"
Her "residentiary training" being in nursing  does indeed speak volumes. For her dedication, before ordination, to a caring profession. One in which she so excelled that she is a Dame of the British Empire  (Hnaef: please correct if I've not understood the British honours system).
But what about her non-residentiary training as a minister in the Church of England? If my sums are right, she trained  for her Theology Diploma while simultaneously raising a family, getting her kids through teenage angst, and doing a senior job.

Now I've got a terribly wrong view of full-time theology colleges. In my mind, they're populated by people calling each other "Doris", while pouring pints of beer over each other's heads, reading Newman's Apologia and flicking through lace catalogues. And goodness knows what the Anglo Catholics are like. But my point is, being a single young bloke in a theological college is nothing like as hard as being a married mum studying part time, while not merely holding down a day job, but being at the top of your profession. (And incidentally being a married mum or dad while on a residential course ain't necessarily that easy).

So crack on, Bishop Sarah. London is very lucky.


* pouring beer over each other's heads an insight provided by @BruvverEccles 

Monday, 18 December 2017

St Pancras 150

St Pancras Station turns 150 next year.  And already there's a souvenir shop selling overpriced tat high quality gifting ware in the station.

But it's pretty standard stuff. Beefeaters, red phoneboxes kind of thing.

So the Beaker Folk figured we'd get in on the act. After all, it's just down the road. And Flitwick and Bedford are on that line.  So why not try:

Wind-up John Betjeman: Just tell this lovingly die-cast figurine that you like modernist architecture, and he'll satirise you in scathing verse.

Intercity 125 Action Model: Albeit the "action" is standing just outside Harpenden due to a points failure at East Hyde.

Plaque to the Unknown Commuter: Commemorating the stoicism of the person on that HST at Harpenden who managed not to use their entire battery complaining about the delay on Twitter.

Scale models of Bishop Stopford Schoolchildren: Desperately doing their homework on the run from Market Harborough to Kettering.

Commemorative Pint Glass: To remember the hike in beer prices when the "Shires" bar was replaced by the Betjeman Arms

Model Fussy Train Manager: Insisting the cyclists with folding bikes put them in the right luggage area. Not that one.  That one. Not on the top. It might fall off.

Manspreading Voodoo Doll With authentic pins (please do not use the pins in real life)

27,000 spare editions of "Metro"

Life-Sized "Luggage" from The Colour of Magic: Trained to swallow whole anyone that is walking at high speed though St Pancras while looking at their phones.

Special Edition St Pancras 15 Monopoly Board ; Actually, we've just got an ordinary one and crossed out the word "Kings Cross" and written in "St Pancras". And knocked 50 quid off the cost of the station.

A Bottle of  Cannabis and Burger Scent: Recreate in your own home the experience of walking through Camden Town on the way to the station.




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Anniversary of the Death of Kirsty MacColl (2000)



The sun disappears bringing fears that come only at night
With hopes and dreams that will wither away in the light
And thoughts wander back to the girl with the perfect smile
Who said she would never leave you alone?
But she had to spend some time on her own for a while

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Nativity - Contemporary Version

Yeah, if I had to choose a word to describe today's Nativity, I'd go for "mixed".

I mean, full marks to our Youth minister, Drebling. He wanted to make it edgy, woke and lit. And he only missed by the distance from Husborne Crawley to Milton Ernest.

The thing is, we know that Herod is a bad guy. He's the pantomime villain of the Coventry Carol. But making him Donald Trump was an open goal, wasn't it? Him building that huge wall meant the Holy Family couldn't even get to Bethlehem. Ended up parked in the Bethlehem suburbs. 

Then the narrator. Jeff Stelling? I mean, how distracting can it be to have an endless stream of statistics as the story progressed? Land of Zebulun (sixth son of Jacob and Leah) and Naphtali (led by Ahira son of Enan, whose division numbers 53,400) - you didn't know whether you were following the Greatest Story Ever Told or watching "Who do You Think You Are".

The Shepherds who were abiding in the fields around Bethlehem discovered that, thanks to the wall, they couldn't get to the room where the manger lay.  They tried to get through, but were driven away by King Herod, tipping boiling oil (played by black treacle) on their heads and shouting "Get away from my beautiful wall! Make Arimathea Galilean again!" " So instead the holy babe was visited by the pardoned White House turkeys and the Little Drummer boy. Which is apparently as Biblical as an ox and an ass.

Then there was a very long "census" scene. For the most part, neglected in the Biblical narrative. This consisted of Nigel Farage checking the nationality of everybody in Bethlehem, while whinging about how poor he was. At the end of which, all the Eastern Europeans went home, and the parable of the fig tree was interpolated, with an explanation of how it was unfruitful because nobody was around to pick it.

In contravention of modern critical wisdom, Drebling insisted on having three "kings". Mervyn, Billy-Jean and BB. I mean, yeah. Alternative gifts. Sold-off gold, a tennis racquet and Blues. Hnaef suggested that to be really hip once of them should have had a "Frankie Says" T-shirt. Which I guess is pretty contemporary for a liberal Anglican.

And then, after queuing for two days because Egypt had left the Roman Customs Union. Mary and Joseph made it to safety. Herod went back to demanding to know why Caesar hadn't investigated Cleopatra over her unsafe storage of official papyri.

I did ask why we finished with the singing of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life". Drebling said it's vaguely Biblical and everybody likes it. So fair enough. I guess that's what the Christmas story is all about.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Pray for Nigel

As we approach Christmas, the weather becomes colder. And poverty lurks in unexpected corners of London and Brussels.

Nigel is 53 and separated. He has just realised that, as a result of his own actions, he will be out of a job in two years. And apart from drinking beer, destroying his own country, and impersonating frogs, he has no discernible talent. What will he do when, aged 55, he has to find some purpose in life?

In the meantime he is desperate. Struggling by in a £4m townhouse in London, earning only around £100K a year from his day job, slaving at night for LBC, and with a mere £75K per annum pension to look forward to. His friend Donald doesn't call so often. And his other friend Julian has taken to hiding from him in a cupboard at the Ecuadorian embassy.

This Christmas, just £2.89 could buy Nigel a pair of Union Jack underpants[1]. 4 quid will get him a pint in some of the less exclusive parts of London. £1,000 will pay for him to lose his deposit in some pointless by-election. And several million quid will let him restart his campaign to make the UK the basket case of the world while encouraging working class people to hate people with darker skins than them or names with "Z"s in.

Pray for Nigel.

[1] Asian sizes only. Bigger pants available in our brave new world of free trade



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Only Purely Biblical Carols

I have read, Brothers and Sisters, a fine piece today in Christian Today by David Baker about Christmas carols with unnecessary, un-Biblical allusions in them.

For instance, "Away in a Manger" is rightly rejected as "dross" because the baby Jesus does not cry in it. Whereas in the Bible record, there is no mention of whether the little Lord Jesus cried or not.

And We Three Kings. Yes, the word "Kings" is only used once - in the first line - but it is a total perversion of the Biblical record, which mentions only "Magi" - and not the number. We are told that the Magi are plural, and the gifts are three. So until the author changes it to "We three gifts of orient are" it will not work.

Inspired by this, I have undertaken a review of all the Christmas Carols we were planning to sing at the Carol Service at the Bogwulf Funambulist Baptist Chapel tomorrow. And made some decisions on what needs removal.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem", like "Away in a Manger", implies that childbirth is a silent, presumably pain free experience: "How Silently, How Silently". I am told by Marjory that this is not the case. Although on the occasions when she bore our children, I was not in earshot,  having urgent prayer meetings to attend, according to her mother, Marjory said some uncharitable things about me during the labour. I have since forgiven her.

"Once in Royal David's City" founders on the evidence that Bethlehem is not a city. And there is no mention of a cattle shed in the Biblical narrative.

"Little Donkey", "The Little Drummer Boy" are both ruled out as imaginary. Or, at the best, embellishments.

"Angels from the Realms of Glory": Where, pray, are we told that these are the same angels that sang creation's story? Indeed, since angels themselves are created beings, for them to have sung creation's story is a logical impossibility.

"As with Gladness, Men of Old": the soi-disant Archdruid objects to this on the grounds that the Bible does not say the Magi were male. My response is that if they were prophets, able to see God's message to them, and to go to the first-born Son, of course they were men. It is striking and important that all the visitors to the baby Jesus were men. Except for Mary, and to be fair she was needed. However, this song also reminds us that the Magi were astrologers and the word "magic" derives from their caste. So that rules out "We Three Kings" again, and any other carol that involves the Magi.

"Fairytale of New York": is not a fairytale. And there is no such group of musicians as the "NYPD Choir." Indeed, it is possible that the drunken Irishman and his drug-addled lover are not even real.

"The Holly and the Ivy" are at no point mentioned, either in Matthew or Luke.

"Christians Awake", "Hail Happy Morn" and "It came Upon the Midnight Clear": we have no information as to what time of the night or morning Jesus was born. It is best we do not speculate on these matters.

"In the Bleak Midwinter" - the weather conditions at the time of the Nativity are not reported.

"The Coventry Carol" - we do not know whether or not this massacre was carried out in Herod's sight.. He probably had some ruling to do, without gallivanting around Bethlehem.

"Do you hear what I hear" is ruled out on the grounds of astronomical speculation. We have no idea whether the Star of Bethlehem had a tail. And a talking sheep? The talking animals of Holy Writ are restricted to a donkey. Not that donkey. Not the donkey that is not in the Nativity narratives.

Brothers and Sisters. By the time I had completed my exclusion of unscriptural carols, I was left with two.

"Adam Lay Ybounden" and "Gaudete".  I am afraid the Carol Service is cancelled. 

It turns out Christmas is too Roman Catholic.






Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Friday, 15 December 2017

A Fairytale in Threat

This is ridiculous.

Richard Osman - clever, likeable bloke off that thing - has set up a World Cup of Xmas Songs. And he's drawn "Fairytale of New York"  against "Do They Know It's Christmas".  The greatest Christmas song ever, against a hack-written dirge that did a lot of good work for charidee, admittedly, but also brought a load of celebs we'd tried to forget back into the nearly-lime-light.

Look, you know what to do. Get down there and vote for Kirsty and Shane. Don't let Geldof Brexit Christmas.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

A Table for the Calculation of Christmas Jumper Day

(Unless other arrangements are made)

Christmas Jumper Day will be the 2nd Friday before Christmas Day.

Unless Christmas Day is a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.  In which case it is the Friday before Christmas Day.

Unless the Executives tend to work from home on Fridays. In which case it is the Thursday before the 2nd Friday before Christmas Day.

Unless Christmas Day is a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. In which case it is the Thursday before the Friday  before Christmas Day.
The kind of jumper worn on Christmas Jumper Day by people who don't have friends the rest of the year. For some reason.

Unless this causes Christmas Jumper Day to be the day after Office Party Night. In which case the sight of all the cheery jumpers the following morning after Office Party Night is likely to cause people who've been to the Christmas Party to retch like unto the Great Fish that vomited up Jonah onto the beach at Niniveh.

And so if the Christmas Jumper Day falls on the day after Office Party Night, it is to be moved to the day of Office Party Night. And thus the sort of sad gets that think that Christmas Jumper Day is great, get to wear their crappy Christmas Jumpers to the Office Party.

If this means that Christmas Jumper Day is a Wednesday, there can be a secondary Christmas Jumper Day on Friday. Sure, the Execs won't be there. But everybody else gets to look like a raw prawn twice.

Happy Christmas!





Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

A Church Near Truth

As the Anglican church-finder, "A Church Near You", announces an upgrade, it strikes me some more information is required

"Please feel free to block Church Lane with your 4x4"

"Secluded graveyard for nocturnal encounters"

"Unwelcoming welcomers"

"Building open all day. But Wilf will follow you around"

"Festival Church - We open up once a year, say how lovely it is, then get back to the telly"

"Key available from local who will give you a questionnaire with 93 questions to ensure you're not an internationally-feared tat thief"

"1960s Liberal Theology"

"Building falling down"

"Specific but unidentified pews reserved for regular worshippers"

"Lord of the Dance Free Zone"

"God never mentioned"

"Nave size already measured and published on this website. No need to measure it"

"Open all day. Everything of value has been stolen"

"Volunteers needed"

"Loads of history of the building. No congregation"

"Sheep grazing in churchyard"

"Haunted building"

"Haunted churchyard"

"Haunted look about the vicar"

"Please post dead bats at the vicarage"

"Incomprehensible rota"

"Damp inside. Lead's gone again"

"Do not feed the Church Wardens"

"Vicar thinks he* belongs to another denomination"

"Wheelchair ramp at hideously dangerous angle"

"Contactless collection"

"Contactless Peace"


* always "he" in this situation



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Will Ferrell Exclusion Zone

In among the more contentious matters of Christmas - such as did the shepherds in "While Shepherds Watched" really only have the one mind between the three of them? - there are some things on which we can all clearly agree.

One is that when we start the Beaker Whelk Stall in the spring, we're not asking David Davis to run it. Not after what happened when we asked if could organise the Christmas party for the Beaker Brewery. Gosh, that was dull.

The other is that we are declaring Husborne Crawley a Will Ferrell Exclusion Zone. If anyone in a 2 mile radius of the Moot House has an image of Will Ferrell appear on their TV screen, it will be replaced by a picture of a moulted Christmas tree.

We're sorry Will.

Actually, we're not. We'll lift the exclusion zone on 2 January. By which time nobody will want to watch any Will Ferrell films for another 11 months.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Ritual Twitter Commotion Over a Minor Churchy Matter (Advent Candle Edition)

Someone moans that someone lights the pink Advent candle on the wrong week.

Someone asks why that's wrong as that's what they do.

Someone explains about Gaudete Sunday.

Someone asks why it isn't pink for the Blessed Virgin Mary, because she's a girl.

A QI viewer points out that in Victorian times it was pink for boys and yellow polka dot for girls.

Someone asks if that's Gaudete like the Steeleye Span song.

Someone says they use all red candles cos Martin Luther did.

Someone tells them they'll go to hell in that case.

Someone says how can other people be arguing about the colour of candles when jellyfish are quite literally washing up on beaches with their stomachs full of gold glitter?

Someone asks whether it's humanly possible to think about two or more things, of varying importance, at the same time.

Someone mentions poverty is more important than candles, and is accused of virtue signalling. If there's any justice.

Someone points out that it's not pink, it's rose.

Someone makes a joke about being fond of rosé.

Someone runs a witty poll.

Someone writes a satirical blog post.

Someone points out that actually liturgical colours are really important because they bring the rhythms of salvation into the earthly calendar of life and death.

Someone says they only get to wear the rose chasuble twice a year and they're gonna match with the candle or die.

On Sunday, the vicar lights the purple candle, saving the pink one till next week. Cos the congregation says it's for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Who's a girl.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Advent Lite

Advent 3 Service Sunday 4pm.

Welcome to the Beaker Folk "Gaudete" service.

A post-modern, experiential and informal liturgy followed by a shared early evening meal.

Or, to put it another way - tea lights and a light tea.




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Much Quivering in Husborne Crawley

Nice this evening to catch up with Judith Starkadder, who was allowed out of South Wessex in the hope of finding some hope. She's not blogged for a while and I was hoping she'd not fallen victim to the gappergennies.

But all is well. She's just been spending a lot of time with the Quivering Brethren. And that can take it out of you. All that fear of hell and excitement.

You know, I spend a lot of time ensuring that every act of worship is entertaining, uplifting and encouraging. But sometimes you need a bit of grit in your spiritual diet.

I think maybe we should import a couple of gappergennies.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

English Church in the Snow.... The Summary

People: Wow! Snow!

People in Villages: Better wrap up. Wonder where the vicar is?

Suburban / City Centre Gathered Evangelical Churches:  Service off due to snow.

The Organist: Can we not sing anything in Eb? The pedal sticks in cold weather.

Elderly female Methodists: Best stick an extra dead cat on my head.

 4x4-owning Churchgoers who live in Chelsea: Best not risk it. There might be a flake at some point.

Husborne Crawley Church in the snow
"Forget the service - let's just look at the church"

Anglo Catholics: Yeah, still on. We've borrowed an organist.

 People who normally try not to mention how few people come to their church: "Four people at church this morning!"

People who live near their churches: What's the matter with you people that don't get to church?

Churchwardens Everywhere: The oil-powered boiler cannae take it, Reverend.

Facebook: Pictures of the Church in the snow.

People in Newcastle: Might put on another layer. Nah. The Sunday vest should be enough.

Major James Dumpling of Little Tremlett: Maybe an extra tot before I set out.

People in Scotland: Sorry, what's all the excitement?




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Scapegoat of the Year 2017

It's that time of year when we get in early with the Beaker Scapegoat of the Year award, before all the other things of the year. Except Time's Person (Not Donald Trump) of the Year.

Clearly, DT himself is a prime candidate for Scapegoat of the Year. These days, when Beaker parents want their little Beaker children to be home before dark, they tell them that if it gets too late, Donald Trump will get them. But, despite his track record of causing chaos in the Middle East, oppressing black people, encouraging gun culture and generally being a grade "A" Assange, he has at least succeeded in uniting everybody else against him.

Which brings us to the Three Brexiteers and Maytagnan. Which of this sorry shower would we make the Scapegoat? David Davis, incompetent and unrepentant in equal measures? Boris Johnson, who would have campaigned for Remain if Cameron had wanted Leave, and who has brought settling old public school scores up to an international sport after its 100 year hiatus? Or the other one with the friend who attends meetings with him for no obvious reason? Of Theresa May herself - we can't make her the Scapegoat of the Year because, against all the track record and defiance of the more rabid of her party, she seems to have realised that the best bet is to capitulate to Europe and deliver a Brexit that is as near to staying in the EU, but without any say, as is possible. Which is probably the best bet in the circumstances.

In the footballing world, Sir Alex Ferguson has retired and Luis Suarez plies his trade in Spain. So they're in the clear. Roy Hodgson is always a good candidate, but he's not really done anything much lately. You what, Hnaef? Crystal Palace? Yeah, like I said.

Last year's Scapegoat was the year itself. But you can only pull that trick once.

And so we get to the world of entertainment. But we're skipping around a lot of people who may well deserve to be scapegoats, but who knows what criminal trials we might be accidentally interfering with? So let's not. But this year's Scapegoat of the the Year is from the world of entertainment.

Or was. He died this year.  And when he did, his Wikipedia entry was updated very rapidly, in extravagant style. It's calmer again now. A  bit.

So, for the Beaker Scapegoat of the Year, we're anointing Norman Clegg from Last of the Summer Wine. Beneath that plastic mac, mild manner and searing wit, turns out he was a right one. Who knows what else he was to blame for?
Clegg, Compo, Foggy with recorders
Not to be trusted

So arise (at the end of time) Norman Clegg. If we make you Scapegoat of the Year now, maybe it will save you trouble later. 



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Right on Time for the Apocalypse

Last week I mentioned that there are American evangelicals who want all the Jews back in Israel as a precursor to the battle of Armageddon.

I hadn't realised that Donald Trump would read my post, and decide to get a move on with things.

In the reaction to Trump's announcement that he would move the American embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, four people have died so far. I fear there will be more.

There are, in my mind, four possibilities as to why Trump has made this decision:

One is that, as Sky mentions, he gets money from people with interests in the right-wing of Israeli politics.

One is that he just gets confused. He's grown up believing that Jerusalem is the Jewish capital, and keeps wondering why the embassy is in the wrong place.

Possibility three - he's heard that Ken Loach's films are often shown in Tel Aviv. And even Donald Trump has standards.

Possibility four is that he is trying to keep in touch with his other base - not the right-wing Israelis, but the right-wing evangelicals previously mentioned.  They're giving him money because they think he is the president most likely to bring about the end of the world - which others might not regard as such a compliment. But in return, knowing that they'd like all the Jewish people back in Israel with a ruler in Jerusalem, he does his best for him. Unfortunately their theology is a bit weird, and he can't quite follow it. But the support is nice. And #MAGA after all.

All they know is what the Bible tells us. Which is nice and simple Deut 30 says that all the Hebrews will return to their land from the nations where they are scattered. Luke 21:24 says the Jews will take Jerusalem back when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Isaiah 35 says the desert will bloom - which has happened since Israelis started irrigating (and causing the Dead Sea to shrink - "and there will be no more sea" [Rev 21:1][1])  The Gospel has been pretty much preached to all nations (Mat 24:14).

So the scene is set. Provoke a battle in Jerusalem when the American embassy is set up - if they can get it built at all. Somebody "accidentally" takes out the Dome of the Rock. Some Zionists decide it's time for a 3rd Temple. The prophecies all come together, the planets are in alignment, Pythagoras in the looking glass is reflecting the full moon, and it's hey babe, your supper's waiting for you.

Let's hope he's just doing it cos he doesn't like Ken Loach films.



[1] I made this eschatological inference up.  If any millennial movement would like to use it, I can be persuaded at the usual rates. But all those other references, I've sourced from various Messianic / Apocalyptic websites. People do believe this stuff literally.


Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Cold Weather Programme - Saturday

With the weather having been on the parky side, we're instigating the Cold Weather Liturgies. This morning's "Pouring out of Beakers" has now been redefined as a "Thawing out of Beakers", and will be held in the Dining Hall.

The "Liturgy of Remembrance of Old Ladies Wearing Dead Animals on Their Heads to Church" will be at 2pm. Please wear a dead animal on your head. You may have inherited one from your gran. If not, we have a fine collection of "dead animal hats" in the Beaker Bazaar. Guaranteed cruelty free. We make them from roadkill. In other news, it's "Country Stew" for dinner tonight.

Reminiscences of the Time the Vicar Froze Solid at the Baptism will be at 6pm in the Beaker Bar.

Filling up of Beakers takes place in the kitchen. At least we've got a kettle.

Apologies to all Beaker People whose rooms are cold this morning. We will give you a new system where you can pay for heating using a pre-paid card (available in the Beaker Bazaar). You may think this is a scam to take money off you by preying on your weakness. Well, the Magnificat reminds us that this will mean you're blessed in the end. Really, you should thank me.

The collection of appropriate items for the Food Bank is ongoing. Please only give until it hurts.


From the creator of the Beaker Folk...
Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!