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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, 7 July 2019

In God's Family

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith. (Gal 6: 7-10)
A nice rounding off towards the end of the book of Galatians. Paul has spent five chapters telling them off for reverting from a faith-based religion to a works-based one. And now he neatly flips it back round. So we are saved by God's grace - God's free love - which we receive from God through faith, not works. But it turns out, what you do in faith brings a reward.

So - though we are saved from Hell through God's grace -  our future reward will be a harvest of the good we've sown. Maybe the reward is like this - when you've sown the seed of love on earth, in the light of heaven it will grow to a plant that bears fruit forever. Gardeners know that reward - of seeing hard work and the planting of one seed producing a plant - after weeks or years - that's really growing and producing the way it can. Not me.  I never weed anything.  Bindweed everywhere. But still. Moving on.

Or maybe it's about practice. I went to see the B52s in concert last week. An awesome yet sad occasion as it's their last (they say) European tour. And the three remaining members are such a brilliant team. They work together so well. But then, they've been in the same band for 40 years. They've had a lot of practice. Maybe if we practice working for other people's good now, we'll be good at it in the life to come.

And I think the way Paul describes his expectation of how people should live is so important. It's not about individuals. He says don't let us collectively grow weary in doing right. Let us work for the good of all. And he tells us it is important that we do this in the family of faith. and I think talking about a household of faith is important as an illustration.

You can go to extremes in your view of the Christian religion. In case you'd never noticed. You can decide to be too strict on your body - or that you're free from hell and you can just have a good time. Personally I think you should take reasonable care of your body. OK, it's going to get a major overhaul on the last day. But after that it's going to have to last you an eternity. And there's no gyms in heaven. I mean, how could there be?

Or you can think religion is all about the individual. Whereas God has made us to be in community - family, friendship, societies, local communities - from the very beginning. But we can easily forget that. You can decide it's all about your salvation, your little soul, getting your salvation from your personal God. And you end up in a church where there are no children, and everybody's sad there's no children - but you wouldn't want children actually in the service, as they might disturb you when you're up the front receiving your communion. You'd really like some spiritualised children from the 1930s who know their places, don't have runny noses, don't cry and never run around the place and fall flat on their faces. Yes, they can make one endearing quip that the vicar can use in years to come as a moderately amusing anecdote. But let them then relapse into beatific silence. This is your communion after all.

Or you can go to the opposite end - and decide that the institution of the Church is important. That it's all about the organisation, the hierarchy, the structure. This leads to a different kind of problem. If it means you think the functioning, or the good name of the organisation is more important than the well-being of some of the people in it.... well, we know where that leads. In times gone by to persecution of those that might want other ways to believe. Or to over-deference to the clerics. To Father knowing best. Even when Father doesn't. And in the extremes - to what we've seen over and over again, the last few years, where those who've abused children and the vulnerable have got away with it for decades because the Church wanted to keep itself looking good, rather than doing good. Because in some cases it was more important that the vicar was respected, than that children should be protected. And the Church should repent - we all should - for the way the church as a whole allowed it to happen.

But Paul places how the Church should be right in the middle of that - in a household. In a family. A place where there are strains and arguments and people are sometimes right and sometimes wrong. But where - in a good household - everyone pulls in the same direction. Where you are all important because you are - when all is said and done - family. And this is not to say that all families are good. Some are terrible, some parents are dreadful. But it's what a family should be like. At the very start of Paul's letter to the Galatians, he sets out  his greetings through God the Father, his son Jesus, and addresses all his brothers (and, let's say, in our modern way, sisters as well). So it's a family with the sort of parent that good parents should be. With all God's people as brothers and sisters. An equality in the church, and the expectation that we should look after each other. It's a family that gathers to eat around a table, and the head of the table is Jesus Christ. Whoever might be doing the passing-round on his behalf.

So, Paul says, at the end of this book which has been all about salvation by faith, not works. Let's do good things. Let's start with the household of God - because where else would anyone start doing good but in their own family - and let's expand that out to everyone else as well.

And that seems pretty unfair. Because quite often it's so much harder to show love to people you know. After all, you know them so much better than people you don't. You know, I can support a charity like Christian Aid, safe in the knowledge that those that I help are very unlikely to be people who disagreed with me seventeen years ago about whether the service should start at 9.45 or 10 o'clock. It's easy to fill in a Direct Debit for the Big Issue trust. After all, a homeless young person is not going to be the one who's coveting my Saturday on the flower rota. If you send a few jars of Ambrosia Rice to the food bank, chances are it's not the person three pews down who sings flat that will eat them.

Although they might.

So I reckon Paul knows what he's doing here. We show love - especially within the family of believers - because that's where we will probably find it hardest. It's good practice. Some churches have a Sharing of the Peace. Others of course have an Unnecessarily Over-Friendly Hug of Peace. Some have a "Will you please leave my Personal Space Immediately" of Peace. But the whole point is - you've got to look people in the eye and wish them peace, individually, even if you don't like them. Even grudgingly.

And from that we've got to  do work for each other's good on a long-term basis. Now I know this is one case where we've come a long way. To Paul, working for someone else's good would be ensuring they weren't hungry. Looking after their kids. Giving a hand with the garden, maybe. 2,000 years on we've managed to get to the spiritual essence of working to other people's good. Back-stabbing, telling them horrible things "in love", arguing  over whose pew it is.

But maybe it's when we do what Paul says, on a regular basis - just working for each other's good - that the Church does become a properly -functioning household of faith. And when that happens - when the members of a Church start actually caring about even the people they don't much like - maybe that's when it becomes an attractive family - one that people want to join. And maybe, when we've done the hard practice of actually loving one another, that's when we start to be able to really, as a family, love those that aren't part of the family yet.

 So let's, whenever we can, work for the good of all.  And especially for the members of God's family. Because let's face it -  it's good training for loving everybody else. They're much easier. We don't know them.




Want to support this blog?
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.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Husborne Crawley Tory Hustings

Wild old time at the Husborne Crawley hustings for the Conservative Party leadership election. Afraid we had to call a halt to proceedings after Jeremy Hunt attached his own tongue to the wall with a staple gun to prove how prepared he was for a no-deal Brexit. But here are the answers to the questions we managed to get through.

Q: You both state you are prepared for the damage that a no-deal Brexit will inflict on the United Kingdom. But how much of British business are you prepared to lose to deliver it?

BJ: All of it. I am happy for every shop in Britain to close as long as we leave the European Union.

JH: This is the sort of liberalism we expect from a Tory wet. I for one am ready to burn down every warehouse in Warwickshire to ensure we move into a brave new world, free of business and profit.

Q: Is it important for a future Prime Minister to show moral integrity and be trustworthy?

BJ: I would like at this point to refer to some of the great PMs of the past. Winston Churchill never got past teatime sober. Lloyd George was like a Jack Russell in the spring if there were women around. And John Major had an affair with Mrs Currie. I am determined to follow in their footsteps. Apart from John Major's.

JH: I am nailing my own earlobes to the floorboards to prove how tough I am.

Q: The Chancellor appears to have warned that the "war chest" he has built up will only be available for discretionary spending in the event of a deal with the EU. If there's no-deal, it will be necessary to use the money to prop up the British economy. Yet you have made some fairly extravagant promises around public spending. How do you justify this?

B: We currently spend £350 Million per week on the EU. We could spend this on giving soup to the hard-working British public instead.

JH: I'm so hard, I've got a Geordie tap-dancing team on my chest wearing running spikes.

Q: But the Conservative party has traditionally been seen as a pro-business, financially-responsible part of government. And you seem to be throwing money randomly around at a time when your pursuit of a destructive EU policy means the country will be in a terrible financial state.

BJ: I paint buses. I love to paint buses. But after I've painted them, I burn them. So nobody ever sees them.

JH: You looking at me? You looking at me?

Q: Mrs May was accused of kicking the can down the road on the deadline. But you're both saying that you are going to deliver Brexit before 31 October. So just when will you decide a deal will not be happening?

BJ: October 31.

JH: September 30.

BJ: March last year.

JH: 1943.

Q: How will you solve the problem of the Irish Border?

BJ: Free potatoes!

JH: Wishful thinking and magic. Both of which are technologies that already exist and are being used. Mostly by the Conservative Party.

Q: You  are both bigging up your no-deal credentials. But you are both wealthy men. And Liz Truss has gone on record as supporting "entreprenuers". Just how prepared are you to share in the pain of a no-deal Brexit?

BJ: Hardship? I've been sleeping on a lilo the last 2 weeks. What more hardship do you want? It's like being at Eton.

JH: Pass me that staple gun.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

On Half-Price Pimms and Priesting and Deaconing Day in the Church of England

Just got in from our Half-Price Pimms Day celebrations.

It's a certain day every year. Like flying ants day. Or, when we were children, the start of the marbling season. You don't know precisely when it will be. But one day, not quite unexpected but certainly impossible to predict with accuracy, it will be Half-Price Pimms Day at a local supermarket.

At which point Hnaef fills his Toyota Pious up with the stuff, a tankerload of lemonade, several chickens and the remains of an entire cow, and the Liturgical Barbecue breaks out. Which is what happened today at Tesco in Kingston when he popped in for the weekly shop. And now a bunch of gin-sozzled, protein-imbued Beaker Folk are currently staggering across the lawn, tripping over the assorted cairns and croquet hoops.

There's a clash this year. I note that Half Price Pimms Day has fallen on the same day that a lot of the Church of England dioceses hold their services for priests (and the following day deacons). Which must be a terrible wrench. I mean, you can hang around the Close, nibbling cucumber sandwiches and telling your new parishioners that you're very blessed, or you can be two pints of Pimms down and the only cucumber is the bit you removed from your first glass. You can't do both.

Peterborough Diocese has moved its ordination services back by a fortnight, I notice. And yes, the rumours are it's something to do with a celebration at Launde Abbey so they've had to reschedule the ordination retreat.

But I've another theory. I reckon it's Pimms.



Want to support this blog?
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, 22 June 2019

Thursday, 20 June 2019

In Memoriam: "Sykes" from Midsomer Murders

Creepy Vicar: And so we come to say goodbye to the only normal character in Midsomer Murders.

New Age Cultists: Not a creepy vicar.

Angry Pub Landlord: Nor a New Age Cultist.

Adulterous Farmer: Nor an angry pub landlord.

Smug Copper: Nor an adulterous farmer.

Patronised Sidekick: Nor a smug copper.

Woman who is improbably involved in the local community: Nor a patronised sidekick.

Spurned Lover: Nor a women who is improbably involved in the local community.

Scary Shopkeeper: Nor a spurned lover.

Sykes: Nor a scary shopkeeper. Woof! Bye!


Want to support this blog?
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.

Solstice Eve

A reminder to all Beaker Folk that, since the standard of getting up on Solstice Morning is so appalling, we have transferred the Solstice Sunrise ceremony to tomorrow noon in the Moot House, where Young Keith will be projecting a video of the event onto the wall.

I know it doesn't have the raw spiritual experience of shivering in a damp meadow, peering at the horizon and wondering if the cloud will ever lift. But on the other hand, it means we will be able to watch it while warm, and wide awake.

If the recording's not very good tomorrow morning, don't worry. Keith has a selection of "best of" solstice sunrises, including from Stonehenge, Karnak and Lowestoft.

For those at work during the day, the Solstice will be repeated at 7pm. There will also be a matinee showing on Saturday.



Want to support this blog?
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.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Liturgical Blessing of the Lawnmower

The Liturgical Lawnmower is wheeled from the Lawnmower Shed to the Moot House.

Hymn: Spare us the Cutter (E. Bunnyman)

Archdruid: Behold the new community mower!

All: Oooh!

Archdruid: We ask that blessings be poured out upon this mower like oil.

All: And not drop from the heavens, like unto the not-so-gentle rain which falleth like that which would cause even Noah to furrow the Noahic brow.

Archdruid: Let it not cut so short that the grass suffereth in times of drought.

All: Nor so long that we can't spot the gifts with which Grendel the Community Cat blesses the lawn.

Archdruid: Let it cut those light and dark stripes which are so clever we think it might be magic.

All: Let it be a lot less bovver than a hover.

Melissa Sparrow: Let it be loud enough that it scareth off the little beasties that lurk in long grass. Let us not find the dismembered remnants of hedgehogs, the limbs of toads, eyes of frogs, livers of shrews, spleens of field-mice, death death death death death.

Archdruid: But let us rejoice in the smell of new-mown grass.

Melissa: Which is the smell of the grassy fear of death! Death death death!

Archdruid: Surely not?

Melissa: Yeath! I mean, yes! Death! Death! Death!

Archdruid: And let us pray for good weather to cut the grass.

All: For the rain it raineth every day.

Archdruid: For surely it is  an electric mower.

Melissa: And to use it in the rain would mean....

All: Death?

Melissa: Death. Death. Death. Death.

All: You know, this isn't as lighthearted as we'd expected.

Hymn: A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

Sunday, 16 June 2019

All those other Trinity Sunday illustrations you really shouldn't use


  1. Three-pin plug (live, neutral earth - oh the wondrous plugginess of the bakelite. Aren't plugs made of bakelite these days?
  2. Perichoresis. Unless you really understand what it means.
  3. Bubble machine (the soap, the water, the air inside... and... ooh the surface tension. Is that 4? Or is the surface tension like the all-God-together bit? Look! Bubbles!
  4. Potato (chips, mash, roast)
  5. Clover (see cartoony St Patrick)
  6. The Toyah Wilcox song, It's a Mystery
  7.  "And the Son does what he's told because he's a good Son who always does what he's told. And the Spirit's like the tomboy who's always up a tree or running through a field of wheat when she should be making tea...
  8. Boris Johnson (two faces but talks out of somewhere else entirely)
  9. A nice cup of tea (milk, water, tea and - who's put sugar in this? You know I don't take sugar.
  10. Liverpool's front 3. You may think they're divine. But totally inappropriate. Especially for two of them. 
  11. Pebbles. I know what you're thinking. Limestone/Chalk/Marble yet all CaCO3? Then add some vinegar and only the marble remains? Heretic. Heretic.
  12. That video featuring a cartoony St Patrick
  13. The triple point of water. Unless you understand phase diagrams. In which case you will know not to use it anyway. Never use an illustration that is outside people's everyday experience.
  14. The lifecycle of a frog or butterfly. 
  15. Tea lights (the flame, the heat, the light).
  16. The three members of the Jam.
  17. A family (mum, dad, child, other child, dad's other children in other families, some totally unknown, because it's Boris Johnson's family etc).
Basically my advice is, never use an illustration for the Trinity. As Toyah Wilcox one said, "It's a mystery". And don't forget. An egg is just for Easter.




Want to support this blog?
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, 8 June 2019

In Other Tongues

"In the beginning was the Word", says St John. And the Word was both with God, and was God. That's how powerful words are - that God's son is the ultimate Word.

Because words are so natural, so normal, so everyday we forget how powerful they are. Using words, I can tell someone what I would like to eat. Can tell someone where the station is. Or scream for help if I've fallen off a cliff. I can use words to describe something to someone else who's never seen it. I can use words to tell you how I burn my hand on the mocha pot earlier. I don't need to burn it again to explain. If I want to tell you about fire, I don't need to set fire to your curtains. It's when someone's language is limited that we realise just how powerful it is. When a child is learning a new concept. Or someone after a stroke is struggling to find the words they do know to explain something they once knew.

In the Tower of Babel, God says - given how bad for each other people are - imagine how much trouble they'd be if everyone could communicate freely. And it's got to be said, Twitter and Facebook suggest God had a point.

 So words are not just powerful for good. They're a source of hurt and division. We can use people's languages and accents to try and put people - literally - in their places. George Bernard Shaw said that "it is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him. " Given my accent - a typical Bedfordshire combination of East of England and pre-war Cockney - people can have trouble pinning me down. Most people from elsewhere assume we're just Londoners. Someone once accused me of being from Norfolk. But one person was so much more specific "are you from Bozeat?" I mean. Why Bozeat?

The way we talk - the words we use, the language we speak, the accent, the dialect words - they give us identity. We don't just express ourselves in words, we define ourselves.

And so the gift of tongues is given at Pentecost. But firstly - the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter goes on to tell us this is the fulfilment of the prophecy of Job. In the old days, the Spirit was only given to certain to people - to the prophets, to David, to Moses, to Saul pretty much by mistake. But now, says Peter, he's available to everyone.

And when Peter says everyone, that's what he means. "Even on God's servants, both men and women". The old and the young, and - incredibly - all nations.

So the disciples praise God in other languages, and all the people gathered hear them in their native languages. God has reclaimed the power of language, reversed the curse of Babel, and opened up God's love to everyone.

Remember how, when Jesus died, the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn? This was God saying that the perfect sacrifice was made for everyone. And now, in the Spirit's power, God's love is poured out on everyone. The priesthood isn't just for the people born into it, it's for all people. We can all come close to God.

So there is - as Paul tells us later in Romans - no Greek or Jew. No slave or free. No male or female. And I'd personally add, no gay or straight. Everyone is God's child. There's no barriers to God's love, no special language, no right set of genital equipment, no class, no race, nor right age that makes you further from God or any closer.

I worry. My whole lifetime - and I know I've had a relatively privileged lifetime - the world has seemed to become more open. The Soviet Bloc which was such a menace when I was a child fell, bringing the Berlin Wall with it. The European Union opened borders in a way we had not known in centuries. People travelled quite freely over large parts of the world.  We saw increased respect and equality between men and women, between races.

And now it's closing in. The language of the hatred of immigrants, of people of colour, of Jews - from Britain to Austria to the USA - has hardened. People shout abuse at each other on Social Media. A young gay couple is attacked and robbed on a bus in London, just for being gay.

But I do believe God is always leading us the other way - to light the fires of Pentecost, to be open to people not like us, not near us. To believe that at the end - and Pentecost is the beginning of that end - the tree of life will be for the healing of all nations, and God will make us all one.

God's Word made the world. And God's words in the story of Pentecost are a song of freedom and love. God's love flows like fire, pours down like rain, blows away cobwebs like the wind and hovers like a dove. It makes all things new, and all things good.