Sunday, 17 June 2018

Vicky Beeching

Let's be clear. Bishops didn't "allegedly" warn Vicky Beeching that she couldn't be a priest if she wasn't celibate. This is the link - it's the Daily Mail. Appropriate warnings. Especially, don't stray below the line. We've lost too many good people that way. And don't look at the bods of young people who are surprisingly sexy. That's how they lure you into Brexit and casual racism. And be warned there's now so many ads on that site that your browser probably won't load. Still, one day a new editor is going to be there. And then the voice of the turtle will be heard in the land.

I digress. Vicky Beeching. She can't be a priest and openly non-celibate. Because she's gay. And the C of E won't allow that. It's not some secretive warning. It's the truth.

I once described to a friend of mine the situation within the C of E whereby you can be a priest, and gay, as long as you're celibate. And she asked the very reasonable question, "why don't they just lie?"

And the answer is, because this religion - the religion that tries to follow Jesus - is about truth. Jesus is the truth, we believe. So how could you live a lie?

So how, as a Church, could you live a lie that says that people can be priests as long as they don't let on that secretly they're having sex with their civil partners? How could you, as the church that believes in the Man who is Truth, expect people to live a lie to their very beings? How can you say to people - we recognise who you are. And you've very kindly agreed that, despite the fact you are who you are, you aren't going to act like who you are, because that will upset somebody. And we - a denomination that was founded at a time when people were being burnt for what they believe, or - if on the other side - castrated and disembowelled - above all else, we don't want to upset somebody?

I pray Vicky Beeching is one day a priest in the Church of England. Not because of her sexuality. But because - from what I've seen of her on many occasions - she'd make a bloody good priest. A priest who is strong on theology, and on caring. Who understands people who are oppressed. Who understands what it is to be silenced and silenced. Who, in short, represents the people that God loves most. And can also put her love of Christ into powerful words. What's not to like there?

I've no idea whether Vicky Beeching would get through an Anglican BAP. Like most things in the C of E it's too weird to understand. It might turn out she had unresolved issues with her teddy when she was a child, or was too talented and brilliant and the bishop might feel disheartened - both apparently the kind of reason you might be told "not now". But she should have the chance. Whether her chosen partner is male or female is irrelevant. She's made in the image of God. And she's brilliant.



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The Church of Unchanging Novelty

Philip Welsh in the Church Times laments the à la carte nature of church service leaflets and harks back to the good old table d'hôte of the Book of Common Prayer.

In some respects, of course, Philip is a little behind the times. With PowerPoint and a data projector, who needs service sheets? All the hours parish administrators apparently spend  wrangling with photocopiers and printers (or Banda sets for particularly traditional go-ahead liberals) can be transferred to the clergy, fighting to get the liturgy properly formatted as they copy 'n' paste from PDF to PowerPoint or, for those that like telling The Man to do one, Open Office.

But once you've got the text on the electronic page, what joyful wonders are available to you in the creative use of transitions! Responses can swoop in from stage left, just in time to be said. Glorias can shimmer in golden lettering before dancing off into the distance. The letters of the confession can catch holy fire, before they crumble into dust as the words of the absolution are intoned. You can unveil the liturgy word by word - or even letter by letter. The congregation need never know what they're going to say, literally until they say it. What an adventure. What an exercise of trust in the minister. I mean, God.

No two services need ever be similar, let alone identical. A few macros, and the diligent clergy can have entire sections converted into Swahili, Urdu or Creole - even as the congregation is halfway through a sentence. The Eucharist Preface can be crowd-sourced during the sermon. At least it gives the congregation something to think about.

If you're wondering why you might want to do this, can I refer you to the Revelation of John the Divine:

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever,  the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being.”

So heavenly worship is that.

Forever.

Best get the novelty in now.

Anyone for tea lights?

Thursday, 14 June 2018

All the Runners Run, And all Receive the Prize

Shocked to read about the parents demanding results be overturned on the basis of phone-recorded evidence. To the point where even non-hippy-dippy-pinko-liberal schools are ceasing competitive sports day.

I've previously set the Little Pebbles Academy and Playschool up with complete VAR to ensure all results are scrupulously fair. But that wasn't enough. I still had parents whinging that little Salmonella had a spot on the day of the race, or young Ginseng in Year 2 was slow because little Pisco had looked at him strange.

So I'm glad to announce the Little Pebbles Virtual Reality Sports Day. For a mere 50 quid, you can ensure that your tiny Grimble-Gromble or Twoflower has left all competitors trailing in the dust. And through the magic of VR, and a bit of hacking by Young Keith, we can email you an mp4 of the triumph.

In many ways I feel like I am making both anti-competitive liberals happy at the same time. All have won. And, for a reasonable contribution, all will have prizes.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Beer and Schisms

Discussion on the Facebook page, "Our Town Ain't as Nice as it Used to Be", about that old favourite pub of indefinite location, the "Earl of Cheeseborough".

The "Cheesey", many years ago, was the scene of an ill-fated attempt by the local Council of Churches to hold an ecumenical Beer and Hymns one summer Tuesday.

Of course it was all terribly badly conceived. The pool team were playing away that week. So our attempt at "mission" was a bunch of Christians, sipping orange juices, and singing "Just as I am" at each other. Except the Anglicans on gin and the Catholics, on Guinness.

The landlord, Brevard Swinton-Channing was the only non-Christian in the place. Which was ironic as, through his family connections, he was the Patron of St Lymeswold's, the local C of E.

Still, we had some cheap entertainment when a Pentecostal pastor somehow managed to believe that absinthe and Lucozade was an isotonic sports drink. He ended up on the pool table, telling Akela from 2nd St Lymeswold's Cubs to come and have a go if she was hard enough.

Turned out she was.

The pool team wandered back from a victory at the Bridge Inn about closing time, intending to have a quick celebratory pint. Instead the place was surrounded by police while Akela was throwing darts at anyone who wanted to start anything. Brevard, normally a landlord who didn't suffer trouble lightly - he kept a chainsaw under the bar for if there were trouble - locked himself in the cellar.

Anyway. A police negotiator eventually calmed Akela down by reminding her she was opening up for the bowls club in the morning. They removed  the Pentecostal leader from the contraceptive machine she'd bashed over his head. And we agreed we'd probably not do it again until Christmas.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Father Giles Will be With You Soon

"Are you comfortable? Lovely. I'm sorry we can't do anything about the actual infection.  But I'll give you some morphine to stop you screaming.

"The good news is Father Giles with be with you soon. Yes. That Father Giles. The former leader of the Home Party. Aren't we lucky to have him?

"Yes, once his work in politics he was done, he went back to ministry. And chaplaincy was the natural place, what with the way the long-term illnesses have increased. We have to be so careful with infection since antibiotic resistance became a crisis. But then, of course, you know that don't you. That's why you're here.

"Yes. there are some fantastic new anti-bacterial medicines on the market. But the NHS can't afford them. They've all been developed abroad, since the great Medical Research Purge. Most researches were privately funded anyway, but after Brexit they all went to Germany. And the tariffs are hideous. Still, we showed them, walking out without a deal like that.

"And I'm sorry, but we can't amputate. Even if we did, we couldn't guarantee any drug to stop re-infection. And as it happens there's a huge queue for operations. Ever since we made immigration dependent upon the immigrants' needs rather than abilities, oddly enough we have no foreign doctors. Not even the old-fashioned Scottish ones, since English Independence. They're much happier getting jobs in Europe. Still, at least we can rename the country now it's just us. I think "Home-Land" sounds quite cheery, don't you?

"But the good news is there are lots and lots of nurses! Well we had to find something for everyone to do, with no private sector jobs except hedge funds, all the chain stores limited to 4 per region. and the housebuilding boom now complete. Mind you, not so many hedge funds now they've gone to Zurich to avoid the Robin Hood tax.

"Dinner? Oh, it's turnip soup and bread. Yes I know it was that yesterday. But what with the lack of farming subsidies and the rewilding, and setting aside those lovely new chases for the Vicars' Hunts. that's really all we can afford these days.

"Where do you - I should say - did you live?

"Oh, Fraserfield. That's a lovely new city. All those wonderful concrete houses, all looking exactly the same. Father Giles has a lovely vicarage just outside there I believe. He says the place has vastly improved. It all used to be boring fields and fells and lakes up here in Cumbria, and now it looks  just like Tooting. I think it's fair to say we're all racinated metropolitans now.

"The Internet? No, sorry. It doesn't work on Sundays. If we let you on there you might buy something and that would never do, would it?

"Looks like the morphine is kicking in. Just lie there quiet now. Father Giles will be with you soon."



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.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

A Difficult Discernment

"Penelope. You wanted to see me?"

Jack was older than she remembered him, of course. It had been four years. Four years in which their marriage - ten years, two children, three Newfoundlands and an orphaned squirrel - had seemed to withdraw like the tide from the shore. She looked at the man she had loved, and realised she felt something more like pity than hatred now.

"If it's about the child support, I'm up to date aren't I?"

"Oh yes. You're utterly reliable. Utterly predictable. As ever."

A frown moved across his face. He was not unintelligent. He had just never really understood her.

"Jack, I'm being considered to be a priest."

"Well, that's lovely. And how does that go? Do you have to be interviewed"

"Well, there's all sorts. Interviews. And meetings and reflections. And then a BAP."

"A what?"

"Don't ask. It's just terrible. But before I complete the process, they want to look into how we broke up."

"And you think your behaviour may cause... problems?"

"Yes. They seem to think that if one is to be a priest, then one must avoid the possibility of scandal. And it is true that I was unfaithful to you, and then left with Tony."

"Yes. Yes. All forgiven now on my part, of course. I can see the long hours and... "

"You've not changed."

"OK. And are the kids here?

"At my mother's."

"And Tony around?"

"No. He's away in London. Cup of tea?"

She poured.

"Tea pot? Not a bag in the cup these days?" he asked.

"A proper tea set. And a decent gin. You want to be in the Church of England, you fit in."

"Oh yes. Earl Grey. Nice."

They sipped their tea for a moment.

"You see the thing is, Jack, I need you to do something for me."

"Well, if I can. What is it?"

"I need you to die."

"I'm sorry?"

"Look it's very simple. I need to marry Tony. And if I'm a divorcee when I marry, then they will be checking. Finding out what went wrong. They're terrible."

"No-one expects the Anglican Inquisition?"

"Is that one of those Monty Python jokes?"

"Sorry. I was nervous. You said something about me needing to die."

"That's right. If I'm a widow when I marry Tony, it's just one of those things. He comforted me in my hour of need. That sort of thing. But I can't keep pretending he's not living here much longer. The DDO has spies all over the place."

"But I can't just die, Penelope. It doesn't work like that."

"I know. That's why I put the poison in your tea."

"You what? I don't believe you. How... why?"

"Look it's very simple, Jack. I want to be a vicar and tell everyone that God loves them and go around loving everybody and being in a servant ministry. And the only way I can do that is if I kill you. I'm sorry. You're only boring. That's not a sin. I suppose it is I that have the black heart. But you're an obstacle in my path to a mitre. So I've no choice. Goodbye, Jack."

He slumped in his chair. She swiftly texted. Five minutes later, in came Jeb, the church warden and part-time grave-digger.

"Terrible accident in his car, Miss Penny?"

"Yes please, Jeb. And make sure it goes on fire."

"Not a problem, Miss Penny. And, Miss Penny?"

"Yes Jeb?"

"You'll make a great vicar."

"Thank you Jeb."



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.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

St Boniface and Donar's Oak: an Apology

I note that today is St Boniface's Day. An Englishman who went to the Germans under the patronage of Charles Martel and converted many people in what is now the Netherlands and Germany.

Of course the only right thing to do with history is judge it in the light of modern views. Therefore I would like, on behalf of my late compatriot, to apologize to the late German former Pagans. The cutting down of Donar's Oak, knowing he had the protection of a mighty Frankish king, was an imperialist act. Basically he was saying that the biggest king had the best god.

It also flies in the face of our post-modern approach to inter-faith dialogue. What Boniface should have done, over mead and biscuits, was congratulate the Germans for their fine oak tree. Suggested that although live sacrifices aren't for everyone, they are in a very real sense a means of touching the divine. And asked if he could have some of the acorns, for this really cool meditation he was planning at Forest Kirk.

There's obviously not much, after all this time, we can do to make amends. But at our Filling up of Beakers this evening we'll be planting acorns in a ritual act of solidarity with those German converts. And in 50 years time, when the world has turned again, maybe one of my descendants will chop them down to build a new Moot House.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Our Town Ain't as Nice as it Used to Be

I have previously (somewhere to be found) floated the idea of a Facebook page for all the people that complain their towns aren't as nice as they used to be.

On this site, everyone could come together to agree that the market is useless, the parking is expensive, the Harrods has become a charity shop and what are they council doing about illegal fly tipping?

And the good news is, the council will never do anything about it. Because this town, although in a sense it is everywhere, doesn't really exist.

Beaker Folk everywhere, I present to you "Our Town Ain't as Nice as it Used to Be". I hope you enjoy it.



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, 2 June 2018

Nativity of Thomas Hardy (1840)

1st Yokel: I see it's that Thomas Hardy's birthday again.

2nd Yokel: Funny. I thought that were last year.

1Y: Same every year. The seasons do circle round, 'tis true.

2Y: And is he having a party, Jan Coggan?

1Y: He's dead.

2Y: Probably not, then.

1Y: Dead and gone, as we all shall be.

2Y: Shall us to the Quiet Woman, the King's Arms or the Dree Mariners, to drink a pretty drop o' tipple to his memory?

1Y: Fie on thee for a pagan, Christian Cantle. 'Tis before 9 o' the morning, by Casterbridge clock.

2Y: 'Tis true.

1Y: 'Tis.

2Y: We'll just have to stay here in Wetherspoons.



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.