Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Liturgy for Ronnie Pickering Day

In memory of a Social Media sensation second only to Ed Balls Day. The day Ronnie Pickering asked the ultimate question, "do you know who I am?"  Video here: Warning very bad language (and driving)

All: Who are yer? Who are yer?

Ronnie Pickering: I am Ronnie Pickering.

All: Who's Ronnie Pickering?

Ronnie Pickering: I am.

All: Who are yer?

Ronnie Pickering: I am Ronnie Pickering.

All: Who's Ronnioe Pickering?

Ronnie Pickering: I am.

Beaker Person 1: I'm Ronnie Pickering!

Beaker Person 2: I'm Ronnie Pickering! 

Beaker Person 3: I'm Ronnie Pickering, and so's my wife.

Archdruid Eileen: In a very real sense, aren't we all Ronnie Pickering?

Ronnie Pickering: And who do you say that I am?

All: Who are yer?

Ronnie Pickering: Ronnie Pickering.

All: Never heard of you.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

All Worship Cancelled Out of Respect

Out of respect to Her Late Majesty, all regular worship is cancelled. Out of respect.

Today's Liturgy of Hildegard of Bingen, Patroness of Microwaves, will now  be held on 3 November in Towcester. While our traditional-language procession for today, the "Lambert Walk", will be replaced by the "Southwark Queue."

Tomorrow's worship will be replaced by a video loop of sad photos of marmalade sandwiches. Beaker Folk are reminded of the words of Judas, "This marmalade could have been given to the poor."

Then on Monday, out of respect, all Beaker Folk living in the Moot House will be confined to their rooms out of respect. Those without en suite facilities will be provided with empty marmalade jars. Maybe you could have spent more on your rooms, and less on plush Paddington toys. The grounds of the community will be patrolled by Russian-trained Attack Badgers to ensure respect is maintained at all times.

Please join me in these marks of respect.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Guinea Pig Awareness Week Postponed

I see from the Guinea Pig Awareness Week Facebook page that they are postponing next week's Guinea Pig Awareness Week out of respect to Her Majesty.

Date Change to Guinea Pig Awareness Week 26th-30th September


 I suppose there's a certain logic here - who's going to be aware of Guinea Pigs when there's a royal funeral on? But oddly, the Guinea Pig Awareness Week website still has the old dates.

And more oddly, they think that there is a 23th of September.

"Guinea Pig Awareness Week (GPAW) is back! Sep 19-23th 2022


I can only come to the conclusion that the webmonkey at the Guinea Pig Awareness Control Centre has taken the week off out of respect for the Queen, but someone still knows how to do Facebook. 

And are the Guinea Pigs aware?

I don't know what happens to you if you're unaware of Guinea Pigs during Guinea Pig Awareness Week (GPAW). Or if you persist in being aware of Guinea Pigs during a Royal Funeral. But I'd like to think it's something like this.

Woman being shouted at through a megaphone by copper in police car during lockdown
But I think it's good that we British can respect the dignity of the occasion in such a way. I'd like to think we can also realise that people having cancer operations or their own loved ones' funerals postponed out of respect to the Queen, on the other hand, would be a really silly thing to do.


Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Monthly Moot Cancelled

 To let all members of the Moot know that tonight's Moot Meeting is cancelled. 

This is out of respect to Her Majesty the Queen.

Instead of having the Moot Meeting, we shall all stay at home, complaining that "House of Games" isn't on, and watching old episodes of The Chase.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

The Celebration of Creationtide

Some Beaker Folk have been asking me about Creationtide, and what it really means. It seems to have just appeared in the calendar, with no real explanation or consultation. So a quick summary.

Creationtide, as people don't seem to realise, is a creation of St Francis himself, who was concerned about deforestation in 10th Century Assissi. The season as now celebrated consists of the 7 weeks leading up to the anniversary of your actual first day of Creation, which you may remember was on 23 October

During Creationtide, we celebrate the wonders of creation. We go out to look at the summer flowers, which have gone over, and think how nice it will be in the spring when the daffs are out. As the autumn closes in, we resolve to get outside in the downpours and remember - it's not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about dancing in the rain.

As the darkness gathers, we will burn old tyres to keep warm and enjoy some low-cost heat. We have a special fire-pit, dedicated to Mother Gaia, for this purpose.

Every Friday we proclaim the Lament of the Person Who Went out for an Almond Croissant But Came Back with a Plain One by Mistake:

I went down town for a croissant
Almond is what I always want
Came home to find that it was plain
How that happened I can't explain. 

I really wanted that almond
croissant. My sadness is profound
Shame that it's getting dark so quick
I'll stay at home with a Topic.                               
(to the Old Hundredth as arranged by Manfredi)
This song is a reminder that although Mother Gaia is rich in giving and generous in nature, in practice life can turn out a bit pants. 

As we progress through Creationtide, each day has a special theme. Today, for instance, is the Feast of Witches' Knickers, when we go out to see the beautiful sight of decaying carrier bags in the branches of bare trees.

Next Sunday, we celebrate Conker Day. The old folk tell long stories about how they used to go out in the autumn to collect horse chestnuts, and would battle at conkers until it got dark. While the young ones drift off to play Pokemon.

21st September is more-or-less Autumal Equinox, and we celebrate by hanging dog-poo bags in trees all over the country. I bet you wondered who it was. We think the brightly-coloured bags are a real delight, and so much more environmentally friendly than just kicking the poor into the hedge or onto someone's garden. 

On 1st October, we celebrate Dead Badger day. All the little children go out and count how many dead badgers they can find. The one that finds the most gets to be King Badger, and gets an extra helping of roadkill stew at dinner.

On the big day, we cover the Duck Pond in a layer of petrol, and set it alight to celebrate that first Day of Creation in Genesis. As I proclaim the words, "Let There be Light", the ducks flying around  terrified  are a reminder of the Spirit hovering on the waters. As the Abandoned Shopping Trolley Wicker Man melts in the heat, we remember that all our technology is ultimately doomed and we may as well just abandon ourselves to the dark.

A Wicker Man made from Shopping Trolleys in a burning pond

And then, as Creationtide ends, we move into the Season of Winterval. This 24th of October, we'll be putting extra bling on the Moot House to celebrate the end of Covidtide. We hope. Unfortunately we won't be able to light the bling up, due to electric prices, but you can't have everything.

Sunday, 4 September 2022

Boris Johnson

 It's not that long ago that I wrote an appropriate farewell to Theresa May as Prime Minister. And here we are again.

Theresa May was the worst Prime Minister so far. Utterly destructive to her country. Inflexible, insensitive, incompetent.

And yet she is no longer the worst Prime Minister so far. Her successor is a liar, a serial adulterer. A man who conspired with a criminal to have a journalist beaten up. A man who partied while the people of his country died. A waste of an Eton and Oxford education. A man so self-centered that his ego has its own gravitational field.

This was a man who signed a deal he then claimed was a disastrous deal. As if it were someone else's fault. That his lapdogs at the Express called a "hated" deal, even though it was their hero who had signed it. A man so incompetent - or deliberately reckless - that he thought Lord Frost and Dominic Cummings were competent. 

And the worst of all?

He's probably only the worst British Prime Minister so far. 

Watch this space.

Saturday, 3 September 2022

You Are Here to Kneel - The Cost of Being a Disciple

 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ Luke 14.25-30

First reading of this passage is a bit of a shocker – if you want to follow Jesus, you have to hate your family. And the thought crosses my mind - if many people that become Christians do so in their teens - maybe that's because a teenager finds it so easy to stomp around shouting "I hate you!"

But given Paul's instructions on families looking after each other, and Jesus's telling John to look after Mary at the cross, I don't think that Jesus means it this way. It's strong - but it's hyperbole. But it's important and challenging - do we love Jesus so much that if it meant our family rejecting us.... well, what would you do? Or is our Christian faith so un-radical that anyone can accept it?

It's a strong challenge. But you've got to remember the context for those early disciples of Jesus. What does the future hold for them? Undescribable joys as they are with Jesus, as they see the Resurrection and experience Pentecost - and yet the grief of the Cross, and a future of persecution, and often martyrdom. 

Jesus refers to a foundation being built - in the knowledge that the rest of the building will follow because you've planned properly. And that takes me to: what is the foundation of what we are doing? Why are we Christians? Why do we gather to worship?

If you came to Little Gidding church, taking the way you would be likely to take - up or down the A1 and then down the winding roads - you would see the words on the wall, quoting TS Eliot's poem:

You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report.
You are here to kneel.
The church at Little Gidding - interior - dark wood looking towards the altar. Quotes from Eliot on the walls

Maybe a bit ironic when so few kneel in church these days. But take it as metaphorical - or maybe take it as literal - We are not churchgoers to be connoiseurs of worship music. To be tasters of liturgy. To enjoy the stained glass. We should not come as consumers, to ask what God or the vicar or the music group can do for us. We come to bow before the almighty God. To draw close to our eternal Teacher and hear his word as his disciples. And we are sent out like his apostles. We are here, in whatever sense, to kneel.

These words are not the light-touch call of a consumerist world, calculating whether we get the worship experience we feel we are entitled to.

This is a call to a way of life that we can describe in Eliot's words as "costing not less than everything". Because that is what it costs to follow Jesus. Not less than everything. Whether you lose your life - or just your convenience. In the words of the Methodist Covenant Service: 

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

That is what Jesus calls us to. A way of life that costs not less than everything.

 When you read "Little Gidding" and visit the place you can think of how quiet and peaceful the place is - how spiritual the poem - till you remember that it was written in 1941 and 1942. Like the Lord of the Rings, and the first drafts of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it was written under the shadow of a war against evil, in the knowledge that at any moment the dropping of a bomb could cost anyone not less than everything. Those Pentecostal fires of Little Gidding are the Holy Spirit - and yet contrasted with the Luftwaffe.

And for us - we meet in holy, sacred, set-apart places. We gather to worship the Name of the eternal God. But we are sent into the world, where the forces that hate the good are also to be found - they are also to be found inside the holy spaces, of course - and we are to face them. To follow Jesus means to give up your rights to a quiet life - to forgo your right to an untroubled passage. To look for a narrow path. To pick up a cross and follow knowing that he went before you carrying his cross.

But all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. When we have walked the path that he has marked out, following him and his cross, to the place where we find that the fire and rose are one. And we bow down and worship the Lamb, and know that everything we have given up, everything we have suffered, everything we had to consider loss, was worth it to gain Him, the one who calls us, who leads us, who walks beside, who died for us, and who lives for us.

A Psalm for Dylon Day

O woe is me for my clerical shirts are dark gray

and my black trousers are washed out, 

with white patches where they are most worn

if you know what I mean.

Where is the shiny blackness of old?

The monochromatic outward sign of inner clericalness?

How has the blackness faded from my life

to where I can be camouflaged against a bottlenosed dolphin.

Though my clothes were black as night

yet they are as gray as pigeons

Though they were like the cover of a big church Bible

yet they are as washed out as a vicar in the Elstow Team Ministry

who is required to have "boundless energy"

yet we are all but mortal.

And "boundless energy" is an offence unto the First Law of Thermodynamics

and aspiring to it more likely to invoke the Second.

And so I resort to Dylon

which turns all things to black

and restores the newness to old shirts

and is cheaper than buying new ones.

Though my shirts are gray as ashes

yet they shall be black as a 1990s company car

I shall be restored likeone that is newly ordained

or like an ordinand posing in the mirror.


I shall pray that the colour is fast

and the blackness does not run

So I do not end up in a pool of sweaty dye on the nice new floor

on a hot day in church

or staining the grass

at a rainy funeral.

I set my hope in Dylon that it shall cling to the cloth like Ruth to Naomi

or Barnabas to Mark.

Sunday, 28 August 2022

Sorting out the Seating Plan at the Wedding of the Lamb

"When you are invited to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place."

Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. (Luke 14:8-9;12-13)

Occasionally there's something in the Bible that is so out of our experience that we can't relate to it. Like this story of the sharp-elbowed wedding guests.

We all know that the British have solved this problem. The most important person at a wedding feast is, after all, the one who does the seating arrangements. Then a nice tasteful name card at each place - and maybe a seating map pinned up, if it's a big do - job's a good 'un. No need for anyone to be humiliated by being moved down the pecking order because a Love Island contestant just turned up.

But, of course, we still know this experience of people demanding their rights - and occasionally not getting them. The most famous recently being Carlton Funderburke, the Kansas City pastor who accused his congregation of being "cheap" because they didn't buy him a nice watch.

I think there's an end-times edge to this little narrative of Jesus's. It's about humility, sure. But that wedding feast is the kingdom of heaven. Maybe we're all taking our places now. Who is the one who's elevated themselves above their true seat when we find out about the heavenly table arrangements at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb? And who does Jesus want sitting next to him?

There's an old joke about a good, honest person who goes to heaven - I forget the original details, and I suspect it's not a true story, so let's say they're a shop assistant. And she gets to heaven, and St Peter checks her off the list, and quietly ushers her in.

And she's wandering around gazing round the place in awe, and over at the pearly gates a limo drives through and there's fireworks and bands and cheering and she goes back to St Peter and says, "Who's that?"

And he says, "it's a bishop." 

"Typical," she says, "even up here there's the same old hierarchy. The bishops get all the fuss, and the ordinary people are worth less."

And St Peter replies, "You don't understand. Thing is, this place is full of people like shop assistants. But we very rarely get a bishop."

Which brings us on to the second passage.

At first glance, my problem with this reading…. 

Is Jesus basically saying we should look after those less fortunate than ourselves because in the long term we get rewarded? So instead of your instant payback on earth, you get a much better one in heaven?

Is the Kingdom of Heaven just an eschatological Stamford Marshmallow Experiment, where delaying gratification leads to better rewards in the afterlife? 

If so, I don't want to go. If I’m going to look after someone, or help someone else, I want to do it for their sake, not for a payback in this world or the next.

But Jesus is telling us - I think - to raise the level of how we interact with people above what is purely transactional. If we give to someone who can't give back, if we aren't looking for thanks or repayment - we're setting ourselves free from the normal rules of our world. We're also acting in the same way as God, who made a whole universe out of nothing and, when that wasn't even, gave it God's Son as well.

And there's another saying of Jesus's where he tells us that whatever we do for those in need - we also do for him. When we feed the hungry, visit the lonely, then we are growing in our love of, our relationship with Jesus - we're recognising Jesus in those around us.

Entering the Kingdom of Heaven isn't a transactional relationship. It's a personal one. If we give without worrying about the reward, then our reward will be great - because we are drawing closer to God, who gives us all things - including his Son.