Monday 30 September 2013

When Self-Awareness Strikes During Psychologically Manipulative Worship Leading

"So..... if we can all sit quietly with our eyes closed.

Now.... If anyone suddenly feels unaccountably angry thoughts about me, please put your hand up......

Ooh. That's a lot. Now, if you all keep your eyes closed..... Amy, start the car...."

Sunday 29 September 2013

The issue of Male Archdruids Arises Again

Some people are complaining that, in appointing Jenii as Trainee Druid, I have missed a vital chance to empower men by allowing them to join the mainstream of druidic enhancement.

I have pointed out to them the usual explanations. Druidism, as I point out, is about sacrifice. It is not about leadership. As "those that are first shall be last", being a druid is in effect about choosing to be servants. Men should not aspire to these roles - they are not missing out on anything. I know that in response people say that the Welsh druids include men. To which I say - yes. But look at them. What sort of argument is that?

In particular, there have been complaints that Hnaef's designation - as the representative of the less-emotionally-balanced sex - indicates that he is inferior. Being a "NAPDLE" (Not a Proper Druid Like Eileen") suggests some kind of inferiority. And, on reflection, I have to accept that it does sound a bit dated.

So, from now on, Hnaef has been redesignated as a "NAPDLEC". "Not a Proper Druid like Eileen or Charlii". And from 2017, we will allow one man to be on the "Druidical Appointments Advisory Moot". Just in an observer role, but you've got to move with the times. I'm glad to have righted an injustice.

Friday 27 September 2013

Church Vacancies - Midsomer Diocese

Team Rector: Upper Midsomer with Little Midsomer and Midsomer St Giles with Midsomer Thorpe, and Nether Midsomer with Midsomer-cum-Chorlton

The Midsomer Benefice is a friendly group of parishes in the fictional West of England. We are now looking for a new Team Rector, on  account of the death of the previous incumbent (stabbed by a jealous girlfriend).

The villages are unique in England in that an endless series of community activities take place. Cycle rides, sponsored runs, amateur dramatics, opera, motorised treasure hunts - there is literally no end to the different ways our inhabitants can die tragically and unexpectedly.

Although this is a team ministry, there are currently no staff. The curate is now doing a minimum of 30 years, having taken out the SSM with a chainsaw. The retired priest was a great help in the parish, but fell from Midsomer Thorpe tower in circumstances that the coroner still can't quite work out.

There is a variety of patterns of worship within the Benefice. Upper Midsomer uses BCP,  Little Midsomer has Common Worship, Midsomer St Giles has Church Family Worship. The Bishop did try to stop them, as it's illegal now, but he backed off after he received that letter. Nobody lives in Midsomer Thorpe since that bloke with the broadsword moved into "Honeysuckle Cottage", and Nether Midsomer with Midsomer-cum-Chorlton just use the order for burial at sea.

We have a thriving inter-faith group. Apart from the Church of England, living in the parishes of Midsomer we have a variety of New Age groups, including Beaker People, Feng Shui fundamentalists, people who try to conjure up the spirit of the Great Badger and some people who just have sex all the time.

The new incumbent will have to be a great bridge builder, as the one on the A4321 was blown up when the Squire of Little Midsomer was assassinated. He will also have to be a great fence-sitter, as he will have no views that bear much relationship to Christianity. His diplomatic skills will be at a premium, as the people of Upper Midsomer are currently engaged in a blood-feud with the people of Nether Midsomer. We say "currently". It's been 400 years now. Ever since that Duke of Monmouth business.

There are seven schools in the benefice, but the incumbent is unlikely to be visiting any. He'll be too busy conducting funerals. Since all normal church activities are apparently suspended, the vicar will have to spend his time hanging around the church and attending endless fetes. Any experience of police chaplaincy would be handy, as you'll be talking to them a lot of the time.

The successful candidate would ideally be a man. Nobody has actually bothered to pass Resolutions A,B or C - but that's because they reckon having a debate would be more effort than reaching for the blowpipe.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

The Ecumenical Experiment Has Failed

So I didn't get a great greeting from Drayton Parslow this morning. He knows he doesn't have any option but to share St Bogwulf's Chapel with us, but he doesn't like it. And he has asked - yet again - if we can stop leaving the more "creative" stuff laying around.

Yesterday evening, for example, we were celebrating our "Messy 3 months till Xmas Eve". A great idea we had to bring Christmas forward into the gloomy times of Autumn. But we left some of the liturgical craft materials behind at the end, each thinking the other would pick it up. In particular, Jenii, my new Trainee Druid, is supposed to clear up after us, but she was a bit delayed trying to get out of the squirrel suit (Jenii's a size bigger than me, and is needing the animal suits for children's work taken out a bit). 

So Drayton had his weekly "Fear and Self-Loathing in Husborne Crawley" service last night. He was mid-way through a detailed passage of the fate awaiting sinners. He looked up from his (rather detailed) text to see the reaction of the congregation. And he saw that they were all busy making papier-maché models of the Blessed Virgin.

This whole unhealthy co-location has got to end. Thankfully, Moot Houses don't take long to erect. The materials are all on site. We're just trying to round up enough Amish to get the thing erected. 

Monday 23 September 2013

Misty Church

The early-morning mist gave us the idea. It would have been lovely, dancing in those grey toned tree-lined landscapes. the light fading and brightening, the gentle humid air caressing our faces.

But it was too early, and people hadn't come for dancing. And so we hit up upon the idea of "Misty Church". It's a real winner, if you think about it. Mist dulls sound, so you get the silence you like. And, in a non-threatening environment, the lowered and variable visibility gives you fleeting glimpses of the numinous.

So we pumped St Bogwulf's Chapel full of dry ice, turned the Enya up to 11, and enjoyed our Misty Church. It was restful, stimulating and spiritual all at once.

To give us one corner with some variety, we lit a couple of hundred tea lights over by what used to be the East Wall. But we hadn't counted on Burton Dasset coming in to pick up his Big Book of Numbers.

Burton saw the shadowy figures flitting through the mist, took in the enormous amount of flame over at the East side, and assumed that the chapel had become a portal to the fiery realms. Screaming "this is what happens when you let these heathen in", he ran terrified into the woods.

He really should relax a bit. Maybe take things a bit less literally. It would make for a calmer life for him.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Making a Move for Paolo

Before he got the sack, Paulo Di Canio was quoted as saying the following:

'It is my responsibility to receive their negative energy. It was a bad day for everybody. I wanted to show them I will never give up. We have to keep together. I still believe in myself. I will never change.'
'The players need to release the rubbish from their brains. They have to have more confrontation, more anger with each other.'
'They need to look into each other's eyes. They lost their belief after 20 minutes. They turned their faces away. They must try to discover their mentality.'

The bad news is that he doesn't manage Sunderland anymore. The good news is, Nicky Gumbel is rumoured to be putting in a bid for him to ghost-write his Twitter account.

A Balanced Diet

As we await the Equinoctial Sunset, we look back on a day full of Equinox Delight.

Hnaef's six-monthly Equinoctial Tightrope Walk was the great success it normally is. This time, he missed the duck pond and fell head-first into the mud on the side. Obviously, the mud was baked hard. So he bounced. Hard.

The sun is low over Woburn now, bringing those sad feelings that one gets on autumn sunsets. Memories of things that were, and dreams of what might-have-been. The conker trees, already browning, rustled sadly in the sun as we waved goodbye to the summer and hello to six months of rain, snow, sleet and hail. And then we had a barbecue. It's been a lovely day.

Thursday 19 September 2013

This is a Low

Liturgy for People's Spiritual State as if they were Shipping Areas.

General Synopsis: Low over Husborne Crawley, except for Maeslie who made an interesting misidentification while gathering her breakfast mushrooms.

Marston, Jazmine, Orca, Hnaef: Overcast, brightening later.

Karl Barth: Heavy Fog.

Milton Ernest, Aelfine, Knotzworth: Bright, but on kitchen duty. Clearing later.

Nina: Constant drizzle.

Geldwell, Young Keith, Torstig, Edith: Recovering from last night's Social Committee meeting at the White Horse. Falling more slowly.

Charlii: Stormy.

Denniz: Tried to cycle to Bedford Station after the Social Committee. 12 miles. Falling frequently.

Mansfield Woodhouse: Like bad real ale. Cloudy, with bright patches.

Burton: Dull.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

A Guide to Expectations for Successful Prayers for Healing

Being mildly sad - prayer can work instantly.

Feeling a bit bleugh - often provides short term relief.

Colds, indigestion, blisters - often works after a few days.

Bit of a bad back - can feel a bit better.

Legs of different lengths - instant, but often pointless. Often reverts (or even reverses) after walking around a bit.

Impotence - try to avoid laying-on of hands. Or, on second thoughts... no, let's leave it.

Piles - definitely avoid laying-on of hands.

Depression - may not work as well as you think.

Lost limbs - works very infrequently.

Based on this article. Basically, at the Beaker Folk we believe prayer can work miracles. And medicine can do everyday, scientifically-predicable healing which can be pretty special. Why not try both? (But be warned - God is incredibly reliable at working through physical laws, but a bit random on the "apparently impossible" stuff).

Tuesday 17 September 2013

When the Saints Come Marching In

Please could the Beaker Folk note that, while we await the rebuilding of the Moot House, we need to be considerate that we are sharing the Bogwulf Chapel with Drayton Parslow's Funambulist Baptists.

They've shown a very kind attitude in accepting they've no choice but to share with us. And it's only right that we tidy up afterwards.

This afternoon's Reverencing the Eastern Saints was bad news for Drayton. Using life-sized cardboard cutouts instead of the more traditional icons gave us a real feeling of being "surrounded by a cloud of witnesses". But when Drayton popped in at tea time, all those big-eyed saints scared the wits out of him in the half light. I last saw him running across Big Meadow, screaming "We're being invaded by heaven!"

You'd have thought he'd have been pleased. Still, let's try and avoid it happening again.

Monday 16 September 2013

The Church Guide to Dealing With an Idea

Procedures for the Forgiveness of Debts (Luke 26)

1. Debt forgiveness authorisation levels

1.1 Nobody may forgive debts except at levels A4-D5.

1.2 Debts may only be forgiven up to 10% of debt value

1.3 Debts can only be forgiven upon authorisation of Debt Forgiveness Form DF5/AC2 - countersigned by the Debt Executive.

1.4 Proposed debt forgiveness can only be approved by the weekly Debt Forgiveness Council, with three weeks' notice. Notice to be given in writing.

1.5 In case of breach of any of these rules, or accidental typos, all governance steps must be carried out all over again. "Be perfect" is, after all, the company motto.

1 6 When in doubt, don't forgive the debt.

1.7 Forgiven debts may be reactivated in case of Force Majeure, war or civil disturbance.....

1.8 .... or if you think they should have paid for it, after all.

2  Conditions of Debt Forgiveness: Rules to prevent abuse

2.1 No steward who is already in debt may forgive debts

2.2 No employee serving notice may forgive debts

2 3 No employee may forgive more than one debt at a time without approval

3. Ownership of Debts

3.1 Debts remain at all times the property of the Management.

3.2 In case of dispute, ultimately the forgiveness of debts resides with the Management alone. Debt forgiveness can only be contracted out to approved employees acting according to these regulations.

4. In case of breach

4.1 In case of any infringement, offenders are encouraged to throw themselves on the mercy of the Management. You never know.....

Burton's Beer Tasting Notes - Moorhouse White Witch

Rather nice this, Dear Readers. On the stronger side - although, as golden ales go, not as strong as the legendary "Summer Lightning".

If beers were church services, this would be a time of quiet reflection with a haunting hymn at the end - one that stays with you for a while. Its light body and hoppy happiness gradually give way to a slight sweetness that never quite gets as far as cloying, but is still surprising in this class of beer.

On the Sydney Carter scale, I'd rate it at "syncretic"

Saturday 14 September 2013

Uninformed Youth Organisations

Yes, I'm afraid that this weekend's special "Campfire Revival" for the Beaker Scouts has gone much as we expected.

They turned up at the Moot House, as nobody had told them it had burned down. And they had guessed the service was last night, not this evening, because the leaders hadn't read the leaflet. They didn't know our camping field isn't illuminated, so they stumbled around in the dark. And, not having read the forecast, they came with just sleeping rolls and no tents, to "be able to fall asleep looking at the stars."

They have all gone off, bedraggled, wet, and hungry - they didn't know our kitchens are closed for a refurb.

Don't get me wrong. I know they're important. But they're very hare work, the uninformed youth organisations.

Thursday 12 September 2013

It Was Always Better With the Last One

In the electronic world, it was Ernie and Greenpatches who have been suggesting things were better under Archdruid Eileen.

And here in the Community, of course, it was always going to happen. Especially after this morning's events where a bunch of Martians blew up the Moot House.

Inevitably, some fool has said that the Moot House was never blown to smithereens when Eileen was in charge. So I have checked the annals, and it turns out that in fact the Moot House was relentlessly and consistently blown up when Eileen was in charge. Blown up, burnt down, flooded, fumigated, and generally smashed to pieces on a regular basis.

In fact, when Eileen was in charge, she was repeatedly told that things were better under her predecessor - despite her not even having a predecessor. The legend of the saintly pastoral predecessor, it would seems, has deeply rooted.

However, I shall continue. I am just now heading over to conduct the unenviable task of negotiation with Drayton Parslow a sharing arrangement for St Bogwulf's chapel. I will be trusting to his Christian charity, generosity and desire to help out fellow-believers. However, given that he thinks we're a group of neo-pagan New Agers with a liberal attitude to sexual repression, I may have to fall back on that other powerful argument. The one that starts out with me pointing out I am his technically his landlord. If he tells me I'm not as good as the last one, I'll remind him of how many times she hit him with her cricket bat.

Mars Attacks! - And then Runs Away Again

No one would have believed in the last years of the twentieth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than humanity's and yet as mortal as its own; that as we busied ourselves about our various concerns we were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a scientist with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

So when Charlii played "Forever Autumn" across the Community yesterday,  no one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable.

And so, when we awoke this drizzly morn to find four tripods and a capsule on the Dancing Lawn - and the Moot House reduced to dust and ashes by a death ray - we knew we were in trouble.

Naturally we scrambled for the sub-ether radio to find out their demands. They responded that they had come in response to the sound of Justin Hayward - that age-old voice that Jeff Wayne had promised would be the call when the time was right. This time, they had all had their flu jabs. And they were going to take over the world, starting once again with Surrey.

Surrey? We asked, confused. For Husborne Crawley is in Bedfordshire. At this, there was an embarrassed alien silence. And the the following conversation.

"We're in Husborne Crawley!  Not Horsell Common!"

"Well, I was confused. They start with the same letters don't they?"

I told you. I should never have let you map-read."

" Listen, when it comes to driving home I know who will be drunk with human blood. It's gonna be me driving home. And I'm not doing 200 million miles in both directions "

"It's only that far because you sent me via the asteroid belt. Terrible traffic "

"Yes, but it was you who thought you'd invade Earth in the rush hour."

This altercation gave Young Keith the time to take action. A terrible noise split the air, seeming to tear apart our bodies from our minds. Something awful was being used - something the mere threat of which, it is said, prevented World War Three.

Caught in the blast, one tripod was vaporised. The others fled. The last we heard on the sub-ether was "you and your schemes. Let's invade Earth - it'll be fun, you said."

Dear Readers, the Earth is saved! However Young Keith's love-life is in a much shakier state. Charlii says she bought him James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" as a Valentines present. He's not supposed to be using it as a weapon in inter-planetary warfare.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Autumnal Instructions

To confirm that Autumn has commenced. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill.

Hi viz from now to Samhain is orange. Rotations are to be anti-clockwise.

When meeting a Sage in a corridor, it is now necessary to pass the dutchy on the left hand side.

Apologies are to commence with the lyrics of "Forever Autumn". It is not really spiritual, but it is very autumnal. It will also be good preparation in the event that the Martians come back.

In keeping with the appropriate autumnal feel of doom 'n' gloom, the tune to Lord of the Dance will be piped through the community every morning at 9.14, in a minor key. We know how awkward that makes everyone feel. In keeping with our Sydney Carter-Free-Zone status, the penalty for singing any of the words is stoning, commuted to sitting in a barrel while we throw conkers at the offender.

Filling Up of Beakers now moves from its standard time to sunset every evening. Since this is very hard to work out, sunset has been defined as being 7pm, regardless. Conveniently, this is the same time as we were holding it in the summer, so nobody should notice any different.

If you're feeling cold, wear another sweater. Wimps.

Sunday 8 September 2013

The Church and the use of Drones

We were shocked, but not surprised, to hear that the Church of England profits from a company that sells drones. And it led me to add two and two together.

It is only now that I know what that buzzing noise has been during Occasions. We were thinking it was just Burton practicing his preaching style, but now we realise it is something more sinister. Eileen has been spying on us.

Not able to relax on her "sabbatical", she has been beaming images of the goings-on in the Moot House back to base to ensure that we remain as lightly tied to tradition, orthodoxy and common sense as she is herself.

We are not going to put up with this kind of behaviour. Young Keith is spending this afternoon building a new and improved laser. We reckon we'll have knocked the drone out of the air by halfway through Filling-up of Beakers.

Free Will and Two Wheels

We enjoyed a rousing start to this morning's worship, albeit a confusing and slightly brutal one.

The Beaker Quire kicked off with "We are moving", and then Segwayed into "Men of faith".

A very bruising experience for the Men of Faith. We should have written the instruction down. It was meant to be "segue".

Saturday 7 September 2013


Famous mystics recommend their favourite tipples

Hildegard of Bingen: I'm also known as  Hildegard of Pilsen. A cool, refreshing Czech lager is just the kind of thing to help clear your mind after a long day's visions.

Julian of Norwich: Woodforde's Headcracker, of course. It's a nut-brown ale.

St Augustine of Hippo: Every day I pray that God makes me teetotal. But only after I've had a pint of Boddington's. It's the cream of Manicheism.

Nostradamus: Watney's Red Barrel. Obviously, it's not around in my day. But I just know it's going to be good. You can take my word for it.

St Simon Stylites: Sitting on a pillar all day in the hot sun can be a really arduous activity. When evening comes and it's time to relax, I reach for a well-chilled can of Australian lager.  And once I've finished rubbing that into my bottom to cool it down, I go and get a pint of Wadworths. I wouldn't give a 6X for anything else.

Friday 6 September 2013

First Day of Autumn

First Voice: When is it Autumn?

Second Voice: The first of September, the weather people say.

Third Voice: But on that day, the sun beat down and we hid from his rays. We were glad of cool shade and cold beer.

First Voice: So when is it Autumn?

Second Voice: The twenty-first, the Old Folk say.

Second Voice: But on that day, many leaves will be brown. The mornings dark and the evenings long. By then it will long have been Autumn.

First Voice: So when is it Autumn?

Second Voice: When Christmas products tantalise on supermarket aisles

When T-shirts sulk as you hunt for your Mac

When the late fruit taunts you under a threat of frost

When wasps are many yet their time is short

When the spiders' webs shimmer on dew-soaked carriage lamps

When the delicate, misty mornings are changing to fog

When the street lights hang yellow and blurred in its grasp

When leaves' thoughts turn to dying and the busy hedgehog seeks for one juicy slug

When the foxes slink close to the house as they dare

When Nature cries "Not enough!" but also 'No more!"

Voice: That's when it's Autumn.

Thursday 5 September 2013

If Church Services were Railway Services

The 10.30 Methodist service will be fifteen minutes late due to a points failure. The preacher's only thought of two, and he's thrashing around.

The Sunday service at the Adventist Church of the Imminent Apocalypse is going ahead due to unforeseen circumstances.

The next service is not starting where you are.

Due to a slow-moving Bishop, the confirmation service will be next Autumn.

The service will be slow today. The vicar's on holiday and the replacement priest is 102.

The Methodist Communion Service congregation will be divided at the last hymn.  Keenies will proceed to the Communion Table.  New folk and lazy ones will go on to the Coffee.

Due to wet leaves on the stewards, the service booklet may be a bit damp.

The worship group has walked out due to a signals failure.  The leader meant "repeat verse 2" and the keyboard player thought she meant "go up one tone and play in the minor".

MIND THE GAP!!!! Between the vicar's sermon and what she will subsequently affirm in the Nicene Creed.

The 11.00 is delayed due to dead animals on people's heads. Once we've checked the hats for anthrax we'll get right on.

The 9.30 is late due to the late running of the 08:00. The vicar introduced modern English and it's caused a riot.

Evensong is cancelled due to Lee's on the line. Yep, the vicar's son is using his "one phone call" again.

Ronald Sharp will terminate here. And so we commit his body....

There will be no Compline due to straying sheep. They're all at the "Sunday Night Miracle Praise-Fest Revival" at the 3rd Church of Charismatic Self-Indulgence".

Morning Prayer will be delayed due to a broken-down vicar after eight funerals this week,  six hospital visits, nine services Sunday, ten PCCs and the busybody at St Matthew's reporting him to the Bishop for wearing the wrong stole on St Oswald's Day. We apologise for this clergy failure  Given a gin and a strong coffee, we hope he'll pull himself together in about 15 minutes.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

No More Navel Gazing

Dear Readers, I have had a revelation.

All this time, I have been a dreadful dreamer. Subject to introspection. Inclined to ponder, instead of act.

But after a pep talk from Charlii, I am a changed man. She told me - I must stop navel-gazing.

Especially when it is other people's navels. Apparently that is very disconcerting.

Monday 2 September 2013

The Nativity of Bill Shankly (1913)


Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly! Shankly! 

Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly! Shankly! 

Reading from St Shanks:

'If you are first you are first. If you are second you are nothing.'
'If Everton were playing at the bottom of the garden, I'd pull the curtains.'
'In my time at Anfield we always said we had the best two teams on Merseyside - Liverpool and Liverpool reserves.'
'The difference between Everton and the Queen Mary is that Everton carry more passengers!'
'At a football club, there's a holy trinity - the players, the manager and the supporters. Directors don't come into it. They are only there to sign the cheques.'
'Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.'

Hymn: Fields of Anfield Road

2nd Reading, from St Bob:

"He's trying to get right away from football. I believe he went to Everton."
"This club has been my life. I'd go out and sweep the street and be proud to do it for Liverpool FC if they asked me to."
"Its not about the long ball or the short ball, its about the right ball."

A Short Thought:

For Bill Shankly, a football club was about commitment. It was a family, a place where everybody worked for everybody else. The game wasn't just about the superstars, the manager - and especially not the board. It was as much about the people on the terraces, and the people living in the terraces around the ground. The people who were just as involved in the success of the club as the ones who got the attention. On the pitch, the theory was, whenever somebody was in trouble, there were two players available to pass to. It's a nice philosophy. Wonder where else we could use it?

Hymn: You'll Never Walk Alone


Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly! Shankly! 

Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly!
Shankly! Shankly! Shankly! 

Shanks quotes from "Bill Shankly in Quotes"
Bob Paisley quotes from "Bob Paisley Quotes"

Sunday 1 September 2013

On the Eve of St Shanks - an LFC Lament

We have failed in our transfer targets
and are forced to scrabble at the last minute
for legends and memories are not enough
and it's being in Europe that matters.

We sing our songs of the Fields of Anfield Road
yet we sing in the dark.

We look for the Hughes of long ago
The fawnlike effectiveness of Hansen
The Tosh who broke defenders' hearts
And the Smithy who broke forward's legs

And our heart is sunk within us when we consider we can't even outplay Stoke.

How long O Lord?
How long must we look for false dawns?
How long must we hear the taunts from our enemies
Both light blue and red down the East Lancs Road
The riches of Chelsea and the upstarts of Tottenham.

But I know that though we walk through a storm, yet you will lift our heads up high.
We shall not be afraid of the shadow of the dark valley of mid-table obscurity
We will walk on with hope in our heart
because we never walk alone.