Saturday 31 May 2014

You Can Never Cross the Ocean Until You Have the Courage to Lose Sight of the Shore

Back into the world of things people famously never said...

Like CS Lewis saying we don't have souls, we are souls. To which I reply, "Are souls? No, that is some kind of weird Gnostic thing. We are human beings, mind and body and spirit, in a kind of subordinate trinity, mate. And no, of course it's not CS Lewis. If CS Lewis had said something like that, during an evening in the Eagle and Child, JRR Tolkien - that fine Catholic theologian - would have suggested a quiet stroll home through the Parks. And pushed him in the Cherwell to sober him up."

But this is one that I only heard today, and again it's on posters and everything.

"You Can Never Cross the Ocean Until You Have the Courage to Lose Sight of the Shore" (Christopher Columbus) 
It has all the instant hallmarks of a spurious attribution. To wit, it's vaguely aspirational and put in the mouth of somebody it seems related to. Which is always a suspicious sign. And when you think about it - when the heck would Columbus have said such a thing? On the harbour, just as about to board the Santa Maria? If he'd said anything that trite and obvious, he'd have got a Castilian response which would roughly translate into English as something involving the proper name "Sherlock",

I've done some research (i.e. used Wikiquote) and it turns out to be in a book by somebody called André Gide. Who actually said
"One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore,"
Does it sound such a good quote now it's not by Christopher Columbus? After all, you've never heard of this French geezer, have you?

I'd argue that it's actually now a better quote - after all, there's a point to discovering new lands, whereas merely crossing an ocean means you're 3,000 miles from home and drinking your own wee. Or worse, somebody else's (thank you, Blackadder, for that image).

But also, this bloke André Gide won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And campaigned for better prison conditions. Whereas Columbus was a mercenary, money-grabbing, slave-taking, murdering inciter to rape who died in obscurity.

You want to be careful where you draw your inspiration from.

Because Doing Something Hard is Worth It

First trip to something social with Charlii ,"After the Ordeal", as it were, last night.

Much the safest option for a companion. Burton Dasset is another big Genesis fan in the Beaker Folk, but he's been ordered to go on his own, tonight. Two years ago, I made the mistake of  letting him buy the tickets. He's been talking about our "date" ever since.

Much respect for love and craft must go to G2 Definitive Genesis. I mean, let's be fair. When choosing who to be a tribute band to, One Direction was never going to be an option. But to play as a tribute act to Genesis - a group of radical key changes, unexpected time signatures and amazing vocal dexterity - can you have vocal dexterity? Whatever. Anyway, the point is you've gotta love what you're doing. You've gotta have determination. And the nett result of years of hard work is just three hours of wonder - albeit shared with 400 other people, and a camera crew.

And I was just in the middle of thinking this, just during an exquisite passage from Ripples - Piers's keyboard adroitly conveying to us the thoughts of Tony Banks under the mourning for lost youth of such a bittersweet song. And then Charlii leaned over and said,

"Oh, this is my Nan's favourite."

I will be reviewing the terms of my will later. I may leave some money to a home for superannuated accountants, after all.

But my main point really is this. In a world of easy leisure, where BGT promises fame and fortune without work or talent and the thought of just doing what you like is encouraged, it is still true that, to produce something of real meaning, hard work is generally required. To play for England, to produce the guitar intro to "Blood on the Rooftops", to live a life or die a death worthy of the God who gave us life - these are hard things. Just being happy all the day isn't enough. There aren't setbacks, struggle, pain and loss along the way.

Anyway, must be off. It's the " Scented Tea Light Hour". Pure spiritual experience in paraffin wax and essential oils. I bet the old monks wish they'd thought of it. Would have saved them all that prayer and copying Bibles.

Friday 30 May 2014

Abridged Too Far

Abridged over the River Kwai by Pierre Boule

One day two Japanese soldiers realised that it would be really useful if there was some way of moving goods over the River Kwai. Boats were unreliable and dangerous.

The End

Thursday 29 May 2014

Are There Germs in Heaven?

When I think about the Ascension, what do I think? I think to myself that the nature of humanity - DNA, the ability to cry, weep, be born and die - are enthroned in heaven. If the Kingdom of the world is to become the Kingdom of our God, then it's promised because the world - the universe, the nature of the hydrogen atom, the fine structure of the sodium spectrum, the way in which all of our human body is riddled by micro-organisms, the edginess and creativity and lateral thinking of the human mind - in some way, beyond my understanding,  they're all already part of the Kingdom of God. There's a throne in heaven where all the messiness of living as a human sits down, and knows that this, this is where humanity is truly at home.

If you want to explain away the Ascension, feel free. I won't be listening, though.

Council Cycling Infrastructure Day

One of the most exciting days, after the local elections themselves, for new councillors is Cycling Infrastructure Day.

Not many people realise how difficult the world of cycling infrastructure design is. But it's truly multidisciplinary. It takes in physics, sociology, town planning and Magic.

9am - course starts

9.45 - course actually starts, after parking problems make delegates late.

10am - "The Physics of Blue Paint" - how a layer just a few molecules thick can repel heavy objects. Like lorries.

11am -  "The art and science of the Chicane" - a multidisciplinary lecture. First a chicane designer explains how to put gates on shared cycle/footpaths that are too tight for kids' double buggies, recumbents or hand cycles (with some slides of particularly good examples from Wellingborough), or too narrow for the handlebars on the average bike (some lovely shots of Leicester's Watermead Park).
For the second part of the session, a psychologist will explain the perfectly understandable rage it inspires in motorists if cyclists don't use this very reasonable infrastructure, simply because they have to slow to a walking pace every hundred yards.

11am - "Cyclists Stay Back" - an eminent ethologist on how one small yellow sticker can transfer all responsibility from one person to another.

12 noon - "Bozza's Boom box hour" - the Mayor of London explains why headphones should be illegal on bikes, yet car sound systems are fine.

1pm - lunch

2pm - To wake up the delegates in the "Graveyard Slot", a Magical Mystery Tour round the bike lanes of the West End, with special prizes for anyone who can work out what the hell Westminster Council think they're up to.

3.30 - A materials scientist on "Small is beautiful" - how an entire town's worth of bad design is made OK by cyclists putting a 2 inch thickness of expanded polystyrene on their heads.

3pm - The film "Brompton, Brompton, Brompton!" In which squadrons of Kamikaze Cyclists attacked American ships around the Cam.

4pm - 4.15 - "What Dutch Design really is" (Optional session. Free drinks will be served in the Refectory at this time).

4.15 - "Coming up with bad excuses for bad design" - a spokesperson from Luton Council on how to spin it when you've built a bike path that's not suitable for bikes.

5pm - Fun final game - " Guess the narrowest bike lane" is it 3 feet? 2 feet? 6 inches?

Wednesday 28 May 2014

The Languages Jesus Really Spoke

Much excitement over whether Jesus spoke Aramaic or Hebrew, as one of the Popes and Benjamin Netanyahu have a friendly sparring match.

Obviously, as any Anglican priest could point out for them, it's not so much a matter of either/or, as both/and. Jesus could probably actually speak or at least understand several languages, to different degrees:

  • Maybe the odd word of Latin
  • Somewhere behind a few words and a working, if limited, Koine Greek
  • Aramaic as his conversational language, at home or with friends
  • The Hebrew of the Old Testament in the Synagogue.

And of course, when speaking "On the Record", as it were, when he was going to be quoted by the Gospels, he spoke Jacobean English.

Ordain Everybody

It was the news that a Church of England benefice in Dorset had 16 parishes that got me thinking.

For those of you not up to date in C of E-speak, benefice comes from the Latin for "it's for your own good". It's what happens when a single parish can't afford to pay for a full time vicar, rector or Perpetual Curate.  (Do they still have Perpetual Curates like Mr Quiverful, I ask myself. And if not, in what sense were they "Perpetual"?) So they get requested to share a minister with a neighbouring bunch, and have to come up with some folksy name like "The Nightshade Benefice" or "The Rundown Group of Churches" or some such. Saves money, but that's the only bit of arithmetic that is beneficial - ho, ho - about the arrangement.

By the time you get to 16 churches,  you're in trouble. If all else stays the same, that's 32 Church Wardens. 96 or something PCC meetings. 16 thermometers advertising 16 building funds.  And, when the total population of the benefice is 6000 people, that's your problem. It's not particularly the occasional stuff - christenings, weddings, cremations, firing Uncle Bill's ashes into space - they're pretty well proportional to population. It's the administration, the meetings multiplying and, of course, the services doing likewise. And all the travel.

So always happy to help our ecumenical friends with useful suggestions, here's some ideas to help our rural Anglican neighbours, with one or two ministers scattered across huge chunks of prime real estate in our great nation's grain and oilseed belts. They're not a combined package - you can pick and choose, as they achieve different things - but I offer them for what they're worth.

1) Sell off any church with a congregation less than 30. The savings you'll make on maintenance, together with the chance to cash in on rising property prices, will pay for a fleet of taxis to bring people in from the sticks forever.

2) If all your churches have fewer than 30 people, you will now have no buildings. Pull out of the sale on the biggest one, quick!  You're gonna need it. Always jumping the gun, you are.

3) Combine all PCCs into one giant one, with two wardens per church and one massively over important treasurer. Defer any discussion of building matters to the next meeting. Forever. 

4) Only have communion at each church once a month. Tell the congregation to organise the other three Sundays. You'll still need to have mass 4 times on a Sunday, but with a bit of help you'll be OK. If they won't organise themselves, I refer you to suggestion 1.

5) Have a massive revival so the Churches are full and you can afford more vicars.

6) Ordain Everybody.  Then they can always have communion. Or, if not everyone, maybe all the Readers, Evangelists, Local Lay Ministers. They've all done courses, they're all free. Let them be priests too. Then every church can have Mass. If all else fails, ordains a relatively active retired person, as long as they have the right basic theology.  They'll still be more orthodox than some Popes. When I say "ordain everybody", I don't mean at the point of the sword. We're not Franks or something. Give them the choice. 

7) Pray a lot.

8) Get any remaining local shops and pubs to offer special discounts for retired ministers. Ideally, move the benefice to the South Coast. That way, you should be able to attract some support for the incumbent

9) Get the council to massively improve your roads, so clergy can get between services quicker.

10) Shorten the length of all services to 19 minutes.

11) Encourage all Church Schools in the area to defect to the Unitarians.  Let's see how they like all those governors' meetings and cheese and wine parties.

12) Realise the important thing is to maintain the status quo. The vicar must continue to be the centre of each parish. Without the vicar, nothing must happen. Leave the clergy exhausted, the congregations feeling their own parish is unimportant because the minister spends all his/her time elsewhere. Have the situation where, to fit in all the disparate needs, services are at random times on random weeks, with a combined benefice service once a month that wanders round the different churches, but only people from the host church go. Offer a vision of the Kingdom that is based around being the last village institution standing. And then close down later when the vicar, and the vicar's car, have both had breakdowns

Wet Days in the Wild Wood

OK. Confirmation that it really is rather wet.

A knock at the door this morning.  Opened it to a right motley crew.

I'm used to the Beaker Fertility Folk straggling in, soaked and sheepish, after being caught in the rain. But this was different.

The Wodewose and his assorted talking rabbits and squirrels. Several fauns. Hern the Hunter and the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. All drenched. Who knew pagan folk-memories could get trench foot?

They're in the Great Hall, drying out. Incredibly we're still lighting the fire. Gave the Beaker Folk a right shock when they wandered down, seeing that lot huddled round the hearth.

Anyway, they're comfortable so we'll leave them there while we Pour Out Beakers in the Moot House. Not much point celebrating outside. You'd not be sure whether the insides or outsides of the Beakers were wetter.

Despite the weather, though, I'm gonna have to open the windows once they've all gone. You'd never believe the smell of damp Wodewose.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Possessors of the Kingdom

It is a fact universally acknowledged that when you start a blog post with the first line from Pride and Prejudice, you're struggling for originality.

Never known an evening "Filling up of Beakers" like just now. It's all the fault of the Little Pebbles Half-Term Holiday Special Glittery Church - a version of Messy Church that recognizes that what small children like, above all, is the use of glitter glue and sequins.

I mean, a lot of glitter glue and sequins. We used to see what the Little Pebbles were doing, and go "oh, look - shiny, isn't it?" Encourage them to make things shiny. Little knowing that it was merely the thin end of the glitter-glue tube.

But this afternoon, in anticipation of the week's theme, the Half Term Holiday Special Glittery Church was looking at the Ascension.

What do we know, from what St Luke tells us, about the Ascension? There were angels there. And what do angels mean? Silver glitter. Jesus went up into the sky. What is also in the sky? The sun. And what does the sun mean? Gold glitter.

And so it went on. The disciples were standing on a hillside, presumably with some grass. Green glitter glue, with green sequins. There was, at least according to little Torquil, a stream running by. Blue sequins.

You would think there would only be so much glitter in the world. Turns out, you would be wrong. I have an awful feeling that, somewhere in Poland, workers are currently toiling to meet the demands of the English Church's glitter glue demands - demands that are on the rise, and showing no signs of levelling off.

I suspect it's a kind of reaction against the way the English Church has gone, this last century or so. From the glory and colour of late Victorian Oxford Movement wonder, we've headed into the tweed jacket and open-necked shirt of the world of Alpha in a way that may have done wonders for inward devotion, maybe, but has blown apart the idea of every sense being involved in the worship of our incarnate God.

I mean, once you'd have had the smell of heaven, the glow of gold, the plumes of smoke, the beauty of the music. And now you've got some sappy over-head-projected background to the words of a song that's basically penal atonement, set to music. Something had to give. And if the adults were gonna keep pretending this was OK  that the riches of 2,000 years of faith were a fair price to pay for some one-dimension atonement theology and a decent guitar solo, the kids weren't gonna stand for it.

And so, quietly, sneakily, by the cunning whiles of the kids and the shininess of their art and the accidental encouragement of their leaders, the Little Pebbles have been stockpiling the European glitter glue lake without us knowing it. All stored in the Liturgical Storage Space, at the end of the Corridor of Uncertainty, that leads from the Great House to the doors of the Moot House.

And today, working on 24-hour delivery because that's the kind of service the Internet-savvy eight-year-old expects, the online glitter glue company of choice for the Little Pebbles delivered 12 more dumpy bags of glitter glue.

To be honest, it was just too much glitter glue. Unknown to most of us, the dam had been under pressure for days. Checking the indicators now, it had been critical since Tuesday. But like the hole in the ozone layer, nobody was checking the dials, because nobody knew there was a problem.

Sure enough, the levee broke and I had no place to stay. Nor did anyone else. A six-foot wall of glitter glue poured down the Corridor of Uncertainty, coating everything in shiny stars. Hnaef was covered in purple and stuck to the wall. Charlii and little Celestine dived out the way just in time, leaving Burton Dasset to take the full force of the sparkly tidal wave.

It's had some kind of weird effect on Burton's metabolism. I mean, he's a real man. In the sense that he has no connection with his emotions, thinks in words, and appreciates black and white. I wasn't expecting him suddenly to start singing a selection of "songs from the shows" and New Romantic hits. And, obviously, I had him hosed down immediately.

But here's the thing. There's a trail of shiny gold and silver across every pathway and corridor in the Beaker community. Everything that touches anything else, picks up the glow. You can see the traces of the fun kids have, with a Bible story and a tube of glitter glue, all over the building, down the drive, in people's hair, in people's faces.

Everywhere you go, you see a reminder of a simple faith that involves Jesus, and the earnest desire to reflect everything that has to do with him in shiny colours. Everywhere we walk, we remember that the faith of a child doesn't involve murky half-tones and an obsession with ensuring that everything is black and white.

After all, who needs black and white when you've got gold? I reckon when St John said the heavenly city has gems stuck onto every surface, it's only because they ran out of glitter glue.

Concern over a Lost Verse of Charles Wesley

Much concern among the Beaker People. While putting Wesley's marvellous "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" on the laptop ready for tomorrow's Praise-a-thon, we found the following verse, way down in an online version.
"Harlots and publicans and thieves
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes
From crimes as great as mine." 
And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. Charles Wesley was an Oxford graduate, a Methodist preacher, an Anglican divine and - as far as we are aware - only ever got in trouble for preaching in fields, which isn't a criminal offence. He didn't even contract a pointless wedding and then pretty well abandon his wife to go a-preaching. Oh no. That was his brother did that. Charles, having married a young woman 20 years his junior, so far stuck by his matrimonial duty that he and his wife had 9 children. Although, sadly, in the ways of those times, only 3 survived to adulthood.

So if sinners are saved from crimes as great as Charles Wesley's, who then can be saved? A great wailing and gnashing of teeth went up as the Beaker Folk remembered their parking tickets, speeding fines, and - worryingly - conviction for having a shotgun without a licence.

Sorry, Chassa, you're just too nice. No wonder that they took that verse out of all modern hymnals. We can't shoot that high (except the Beaker Person with the shotgun, obviously). If we had to sing that every week, we'd never come to church any more.

The Myth that Politics is Our Fault

Max Benwell in the Independent bemoans the low turnout in local elections and advocates compulsory, online voting.

One at a time, I reckon...

Local elections have low turnouts because most people think they're pointless. It's not even like councils have much control over their fund raising and spending ability. The centralised Westminster machine has been making sure it gets a decent handle on that for decades. We just see local elections as being a chance to cock a snook at the ruling party in Westminster. Otherwise we don't really care, outside a few truly rotten boroughs, who it is that fixes the roads and fouls up the cycling infrastructure that a glossy magazine - produced at our expense - tries to tell us about. You can hand your brassy chains to the next Buggins every twelve months, you can make your enormous speeches about the future of local recycling facilities, you can turn up and open fetes. But other than that, leave us alone.

Then the trouble for me about compulsory voting, is what it tells us about the regard those wanting it have for themselves. When Stephen Mayo bemoans on his blog having to stay up late to see a small turnout being counted, he's saying "Look at me. I've spent my best years climbing a greasy political pole, saying the right things, paying my dues, until I'm local electoral agent for the Labour party - and you lot have so little appreciation you can't be bothered to vote? You unutterable swines - maybe we can count on your vote next time?

Well maybe, the problem over apathy isn't our side of the fence. Maybe we're apathetic because the things we've seen - certainly since Margaret Thatcher was kicked out for having views - have made us so. Whether you're left-leaning or right, the apparent differences in your policies are actually so slight that it makes no difference. At least personality politics gave us something to hang onto. But now what have we got? Shiny and bland David Cameron, earnest and bland Nick Clegg, weird and yet somehow still bland Ed Miliband. A man whose only interesting features are that he's somehow thought more electable than his brother,and  he can't eat a bacon sandwich and campaign in an election at the same time.

Think about it - it was a Tory Prime Minister who got equal marriage through parliament, and a Labour one who bombed Iraq to stay friendly with the Americans. A Labour PM who got so cosy to the banks that a financial crisis blew up, and a Tory one who - whatever the message - kept piling up the deficit. If the gap between you all wasn't the width of a Post-it note (which would probably end up stuck embarrassingly on Ed Miliband's forehead) there would be no way those would be that way round. When the issue causing most fuss in English politics is precisely which books should be on the GCSE syllabus, you know all difference in politics is now nuance, and all remaining support for either side is tribal. You're all hopeless, and that's it. No wonder some people see the amiable, bumbling old-fashioned Tories in UKIP and give them their vote. It's a way of saying they've had enough. And at least they're voting.

So, physicians, heal yourselves, and then we'll see whether we might vote for you. Don't make voting compulsory because otherwise you feel unwanted on Election Night. You are unwanted, and your sadness and loneliness last Thursday shows it. Fix the cause, if you can, not the symptom. (In fact, between Europe and globalisation, I'm not even sure you can do much about the cause. In which case why would anyone bother voting, anymore?)

And online voting. Really, Max Benwell?

Mass postal voting is bad enough. The opportunities for fraud are so large. I'd personally make it so unless you're physically unable to get to the polling booth through disability or incarceration, you only vote if you personally go.  If you're working away from home, or abroad at the time, you'll be allowed a postal vote if you have a note from your mother or other responsible adult.

And why would I think online voting a bad idea? Do I need to list the number of online retailers, banks and other private sector companies that have lost customer data? And they're generally halfway competent. If everybody voted online, it would totally open up the electoral system in this country. Frankly, the Ukrainians in favour of union with Russia, Boko Haram and the Lighthouse Family would all fancy themselves in with a chance of an outright majority. If the Chinese decided which party they preferred, they'd probably have a bash at nudging things their way as well.

Is this suggestion serious? Is this remotely wise? Does anybody think this would improve democracy, rather than give the edge to whichever chancer managed to break their way through the right firewall? I mean, I know the Independent lives in a dreamworld where it hasn't snowed since 1999, but honestly? And if the people at the Indie think that technology would give hip, correct- thinking liberal progressives the edge, they probably need to consider which newspaper shows the best ability to survive in an online world. The Mail.

So, all in all, in response to these two articles, I guess my response would be: If you want us to vote, make us believe, at local and national level, that there is a point. And keeping UKIP out isn't enough of a point - make us believe it's worthwhile, that you care. Then we won't need postal or online or compulsory voting - we will go, thoughtfully, earnestly, joyfully of in trepidation to the polling booths and do our political duty.

Otherwise, take your sparkly chains, your crap bike lanes, your Question Time, your duck houses and expense claims and all the fakery that you're all different, when in fact you're all just terrified of making an "embarrassing gaffe", and clear off. Leave us to Britain's Got Talent and Celebrity. At least then we have a choice.

(And yes, I did vote. And no. It wasn't UKIP.)

Monday 26 May 2014

Election Results - Market Sodsbury European Constituency

Bertie Wooster (Jolly Good Bloke, Hurrah for Tweed Trousers Party) - 30%

Mrs McCorkadale (Blister on Society Party) - 27%

Ginger Winship (In awe of Strong Intelligent Women Party)  - 25%

Madeleine Basset (Stars are God's Daisy Chain Party) - 12%

Roderick Spode - lost deposit

Reginald Jeeves - did not stand. Did not need to. Remains in control.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Oh, γέεννα

Sorry to go back to the case of the Attleborough Hate Crime, where a Church poster was so scary it put back a local atheist's need to shave by 5 years.

As Rowan Atkinson once nearly said, Hell's had a bit of a bad press, you know? All that fire and brimstone and stuff is based on a very few verses in the Bible, which has an almost total lack of interest in the subject. "Hell" in the Old Testament is a cold, damp, dismal waiting place - a bit like Derby Station, on a sunny day. This Hell was a rough approximation of the Greek Hades, or maybe the Helliconian concept of "pauk", but it wasn't forever. The chance of getting out, in Jewish - or at least Pharisaic and Essene - thought, lay with the Resurrection. As I tried to illustrate a few years ago, that Hell had its doors kicked in when the first of those Resurrections happened.

Then we have what Jesus referred to as "Gehenna". The metaphor is for the rubbish dump in the Hinnom valley, where the rubbish was burnt and the Israelites of old, when they were in full Molech-worshipping mode, used to sacrifice their firstborn. Poor old St Paul. He's always the one who gets it in the neck for being a meanie, while Gentle Jesus is so meek and mild. Other way round. It's Jesus who depends extravagant moral standards and threatens us with hell - while St Paul gives us salvation by grace alone. But Jesus doesn't tell us much detail - a mention of fire and heat, and that's it. The Book of Revelation tells us a bit about eternal punishment. But it's not the punishment where the Devil gets to poke pitchforks in your nether regions for ever. Read the Good Book:
"I saw Satan’s army march across the earth and gather around the camp of God’s people and the city that God loves. But fire came down from heaven and destroyed Satan’s army. And he (the one who tricked these people) was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur with the beast and the false prophet. There they would be tortured day and night forever and ever."  (Rev 20:9-10)
And yes, there's a certain amount of people being thrown in the lake of burning sulfur after that. But Satan's not doing the pitchfork-wielding. He's too busy being tortured day and night in the sulfur himself.

So, on the whole, not good news. But at least there's no pitchforks. No cloven hoofs, no being flayed forever, no mention that "Satan belches fire, and enormous devils break wind both night and day! Hell: where the mind is never free from the torments of remorse, and your bottom never free from the pricking of little forks!" Satan, according to the Good Book, has other matters on his horny hands.

In short, Hell as the common imagination has it, is not really mentioned in the Bible. And where Hellish things are mentioned, it's short, and it's vague and, yes, it's quite warm.

But the books of the Bible aren't really that interested in Hell, because they're interested in more important things - the People of God, the Land, the goodness of God, the need to care for strangers and the poor, and the promise of a wonderful life forever with God. It's not that Hell doesn't exist - it's that it should not be our greatest concern. The focus of Dives and Lazarus - what is it? Is it the dead rich bloke with a roast turnip being pushed into his ears forever? No. It's the missing of the opportunity to do good; that and the (totally-undeserved, by the way, from the story) way that the poor Leper gets to spend eternity with Abraham and the other blessed.

I would hazard a guess that the threat of hell fire has a zero effect in trying to persuade smooth-chinned atheists with bad haircuts to believe in God. Because if you don't believe in God, then being told about Hell will not make any difference. It's like somebody telling me we shouldn't send little Celestine to Hogwarts, because the manifesto is woefully short on Chemistry. It's not really scary to a poor little Norfolk atheist, because he doesn't believe in it. And who's scared of things they don't believe in? (Apart from Jeremy Bentham, who was terrified of ghosts). Nope, the only people that view of Hell ever had an effect on were people who did believe in God, but presumably hoped they'd get away with being evil-livers anyway.

So - do I believe in Hell? Actually, yes I do. Because I believe that there has to be somewhere to go when they die, for people who don't believe in God. I do believe that the Jewish belief in Hades reflected a life that goes on after physical death, that when Jesus knocked the doors to Hell down some people were in there.

And I believe that the fire is a metaphor. A metaphor for destruction, though, sure enough. But one we will choose for ourselves. If God is the matrix within which we live and move and have our being, then to reject that is to fall back onto our resources, or onto the created things that we put in the place of God. And that's no sensible basis for eternal life. That's a recipe for withering away until the one who turns from God is just an attenuated echo of what they formerly were, forever. That's not as picturesque as a dungeon of fire full of red-coated Pan wannabes with toasting forks. But it's no less sad, in the end.

But then, always look on the bright side of life. God is good and loving, and will take anybody if they make that choice. God's not proud. Many we might think will be goats, will turn out to be sheep. And vice-versa. But if you want to be part of the shepherd's flock, my baa-ing friends, then you're allowed in. That's good news.

Oh, don't forget to feed the poor, visit prisoners and look after strangers, will you? Apparently that's a part of the deal. And not a bad one, when all's said and done.

All-Purpose Litany for Reacting to Election Results

Archdruid: And don't forget, these are just predictions.  Just a bit of fun.......

LibDems: Babylon is fallen, fallen! For though we supported Europe above all parties, yet were we soundly renounced. Therefore we will repent in dust and ashes. We turn our eyes to the Greens. For once we were as they were - unsoiled by power, and so unhated by all. But we reached out for the forbidden fruit. We saw the shires of the West Country laid out before us and we lusted after Government. And now the honey turns to gall in our mouths, and we will retreat to the fringes, and wait for the coming of Vince to be our saviour. Even if he's a bit creepy.

Labour: We will rejoice, for we have not suffered at the hands of UKIP as we feared. In fact, a year out from a General Election, getting a result that's not as bad as we had feared is, in a way, a sort of victory. So we will spin, spin, spin that we are the victors. And look unto our Ed and wonder, what can be done with him? For we have not done badly enough to ditch him. Yet have we not done well enough to think victory ours.

UKIP: The electorate have lifted up our horn - fwhah! sounds a bit rude! - and so we shall rejoice. Let Morris Men dance to the sound of the steel bands in Merry England! And then down to the Rose and Crown for a pint of proper English beer! Rah! Oh, no, Roger's firm of property developers sold the Rose and Crown off, didn't they?  Oh well, pass the gin, Nige!

Conservatives: We'll just sit here and be quiet, just in case they do suspect us. They're probably watching us. Well, let them. Let them see what kind of a party we are. We're not even going to swat that fly. We hope they are watching... they'll see. They'll see and they'll know, and they'll say, "Why, they wouldn't even harm a fly...

Greens: For every thing there is a time and a season. A time to stop fracking, and a time to ban biodiesel. A time to nationalise everything, and a time to close the road network down. A time for bicycles, and a time for tandems. A time to get a few votes in the local and European elections, and a time to get forgotten about 12 months later. Maybe it would help get us some airtime if we were rude about Romanians?

Smaller than the Average Library

I'd never noticed this meme until it was brought to my attention today. The "Atheist Temples" meme that is. The idea that atheists can have many books, whereas people of faith would just have the one, I guess.

I mean, yes. I remember when Drayton Parslow declared it was the Bible or nothing. From now on if he needed any knowledge, it would be in the Good Book. It was murder when he needed to phone one of his congregation. He went all the way through the Book of Numbers, and couldn't find them. And it's not even in alphabetical order.

The irony of the "Atheist Temple" meme, I have discovered, is quite well known. The library in the picture is that of Trinity College Dublin. This being a least a threefold irony.
1) It's called "Trinity"
2) It was an overtly sectarian foundation
3) It contains the Book of Kells, that wonderful 1200 year old Latin version of the Gospels.

See, when I consider the libraries of the world I think about Caxton, and Gutenberg. The printing presses that among other things produced lots of Bibles. I remember the way that the old philosophical wonders of Greece were preserved by Muslims and then rediscovered, printed and wondered at by Christians.

I reflect on my own conversion, just after finishing my course in Quantum Chemistry. Being awkward, I did most of my revision for the exam in the Hulme History Library of Brasenose College. A college founded by a bishop. On that course I mostly read a book by PW Atkins, the famous atheist.  And here is my point.

A library is a collection of books that seek to enlighten, and enliven. Through its sections of fiction, and nonfiction, we expand our experiences to lives we never need live ourselves to gain knowledge we could never gain ourselves experimentally if we lived 1,000 lives.

A Christian like myself sees libraries not as some kind of weird atheist threat, but as places where all the wonders - scientific, religious, historical, imaginative - of our world are piled on shelves.

In fact, I reckon if a library is a temple, it's one "to an unknown God".

Except the library in that poster, of course. That's to the honour of the undivided Trinity.

I wonder if the person that created the " Atheist Temples" picture worshipped at a temple that was missing its history section?

Friday 23 May 2014

Norfolk Police Plod On

Thanks to Bruvver Eccles for indicating the way to the proof that Norfolk Police have no idea what they are here for.

I presume that, if the story's right (they're often not), the sad little chap who was scared of the sign will now be campaigning to have the Bible banned. But I would just like to add one thing to the exciting photo the East Daily Press adorn their article with.

What on earth is he wearing? He'd best hope we're not judged on dress sense.

Ecumenical Paintball - After the Ordeal

Wow, that was some afternoon in the woods in Bozeat. Much paint! The Ecumenical Paintball Death-Game is always a special event, and this year we had a record turnout of teams. Although the Post-Modern Church never turned up. Apparently there was a craft beer event in Camden.

A minor disruption to the Church of England team , when a few defected to the Catholics early doors.  In theory this should have given the Catholics a distinct advantage. But in fact they then spent the rest of the day in small groups, arguing about who was and wasn't in their team.
Can you see 7 Franciscans hiding in this picture?

The Quakers, having come out for peace, naturally got annihilated. I've never seen so much paint fly as when they walked between the Russian Orthodox and the American Episcopalians, and suggested everyone should just respect each others' view.

While sorting themselves out from  the early defections, the Anglicans had a bit of a row when somebody suggested a woman be the captain. In the end it was agreed she could be a sergeant in the Church of England "A" platoon, as long as nobody told the people in "B" platoon. It was pretty tricky all round for the C of E, as wherever they went, the Gafcon team followed them around, throwing rocks at them. 

The URC were very strong. They sorted out the fundamentalist Baptists in no time. The Fundies were confident, disciplined, convinced of their victory. But throwing random texts at the opposition is no substitute for actually using weapons that work.

The Methodists were, frankly, pretty ineffective in the field. Trouble was, every time one of the other teams launched an attack, they formed a committee to discuss what their response should be. Meanwhile the Wesleyan Reform Church and the Independent Methodists, realising they were badly outnumbered, agreed to join together. Which mean they ended up with three teams, instead of two. The Baptists had them for breakfast, although their tactics - splitting into small, self-governing squads with a loose central organisation - left them vulnerable to being picked off by the Pentecostals. The other problem the Baptists had was that every time they chose a captain, somebody disagreed and they had to have another vote.

It's always nice to have visiting teams from abroad at these events. And we really enjoyed the company of the American Episcopalians. Others might think that skipping through the undergrowth, wearing rainbow-coloured chasubles or dressed as clowns, might have made them conspicuous in a contest normally marked by people in camouflage outfits. But the Episcopalians merely refused to accept that anything shot at them had any effect. And, to be fair to them. in those outfits the paint didn't even show.

By late afternoon, a fair number of the smaller groups had been picked off. The Methodists were still in the field, despite their organisational problems.  But they were bound to succumb in the end. When the URC launched that decisive frontal attack on them late on, they'd barely agreed a terms of reference, made some tea, appointed a subcommittee and agreed to defer their decision to the next meeting before they were wiped out. The Emergent Church emerged from the trees right in the middle of it, saw the mayhem, and merged straight back into the woods.

Meanwhile in the internecine Catholic infighting, the Liberal, Progressive team got a battering from a bunch of Benedictines. Actually, this caused the only serious injury of the day, when the captain of the Liberal, Progressive team was hit over the head with a branch by a nunja. It's just concussion, not a skull fracture, but doctor says he has to keep taking the Tablet. Apparently, in his current state, it makes sense as well.

The URC and Church of England eventually closed together for what everybody expected to be the decisive battle. The Beaker Folk had remained unscathed, but since they were off at the far end of Dungay Woods hugging the trees, they weren't a threat to anyone. But then it was realised that another group, not aligned to any one Church organisation and somehow part of all, yet stronger than any.

Disciplined, well-equipped, merciless. Taking no prisoners. How could anyone withstand the attack of the Flower Arrangers? The URC and C of E scattered like orcs at the Gates of Mordor. The Episcopalians were woven into an artistic arrangement, representing "The Promise of Spring".  The Flower Arrangers wipted the floor with the remnants of the Old Catholics, were awarded the trophy, and put a few lupins in it.

And it was only by early evening we discovered that this meant the Quakers got first dibs at the burgers. Which makes me think that it wasn't all about the pacifism after all. We lined up for the burgerless buns, and munched the in exhausted silence. Away in the darkling woods, we could hear the Armies of the Two Popes still slugging it out.Their battle will go on late into the night.

Twitter Struck by "Petulance"

Twitter management have confirmed today that the popular micro-blogging site has been struck by "petulance".

"So as far as we can tell," said a spokesperson on a beach, "the petulance has only affected the United Kingdom." It seems that the over-use of the letters "U, K, I P, by people complaining that UKIP get too much attention, has caused issues with the performance of the free-speech servers.

"So this happens from time to time, when Twitter users discover that there are other people in the world. The discovery that some people don't agree with them can cause a dreadful strain. So the political load-balancer is used to dealing with a constant strain on the servers on the Left, but this kind of constant asymmetric battering can leave the site unable to respond except through sporadic petulance."

The spokesperson ordered another cocktail and told us, "So we expect the petulance to last through to about Tuesday. After that we're hoping Twitter people will go back to thinking that everybody is like them again. But we're having to plan ahead for next May. We're so going to need some new bile-processors by then, for sure. Democracy would be great if everybody was like us. Would save all this stress on the system."

Thursday 22 May 2014

Eden and Evolution - the Life of Bryan

The sort of kerfuffle that only happens in the States, or at least on a big scale, is going on in the States. A college called Bryan (feel free to sing the theme song) has caused trouble by expecting its professors to assent to the existence of Adam and Eve as "historical persons created by God in a special formative act".

The article I've just linked to asks the question "Can Darwin and Eden Coexist?".  And I reckon the answer is "of course they can". In the same way that Emma Woodhouse and nuclear power do; Betjeman and sunshine; the speed of light and the monthly edition of "Gardener's World". If you don't make some stupid category error, and expect Jane Austen to tell you something about the properties of borax, or an East Midlands railway timetable to tell you when the train to Nottingham calls at Bedford, then they co-exist pretty well. They all do on my bookshelves, those that are books, at any rate.

Read the Book of Genesis. It's great. Parts of it are beautiful, parts are fascinating, and parts are a soap opera. Chapter 1, for instance, tells you about an ordered, consistent, comprehensible world. The Origin of Species tells you how those consistent, comprehensible laws of nature worked to bring about ourselves and the plants and animals we see around us. It's a fascinating tension between the two, but that's the borderlands where I like to hang out.

I was struck tonight by a quote from the last Harry Potter film. Harry Potter asks (the dead) Dumbledore whether their conversation, the ghostly Kings Cross Station and the expiring fragment of Voldemort are real, or happening in his head. And Dumbledore replies,

"Of course it's happening in your head, Harry. That doesn't mean it's not real."

That's the way it works. The Book of Genesis happened in the heads of a number of writers. Some of it is a kind of national folk-history: a national origin myth. Some is a reworking, a challenge, a poetic response, to the Babylonian myths of creation. And some is a nice little tale about a man, and a woman, and a snake, in a garden. It happened in the authors' heads. That doesn't mean it's not real. It just means it's not proper history, proper science. I don't care. It's still real.

In the States, the fight goes on. Still, cheer up, Bryan College. Worse things happen at sea.

Amice? Amice?

Much of a flurry over the cassock-alb.  Somebody doesn't like them. Thinks they're too quick and easy.  For those not into the more Liberal side of Anglo Catholic things, this is a thing ministers wear. It's white.  It's a bit like one of those winter coats we used to have in the early 80s, which buttoned at the shoulder.  And it's quicker to get on and off than the alternatives. Which, in some situations, can be an advantage.

In fact, only if you're keen on "fumbling with amice strings" could this be a problem. I don't know what an amice is, or why it has strings. But if that's what you like doing, then I suppose in the privacy of your own vestry, you can fumble with your amice strings to your heart's delight.

As ever, I ask myself in these circumstances, how could the correct use of the clothing of the Roman oppressors of God's holy people - for that is what albs, cassocks and stoles and the like are - be mapped onto the way the early Church lived?
Did St Paul have to arrive at gigs early because he had to struggle with alb,  cassock and maniple? If he did there's no mention of it in Acts. Did Peter open the Council of Jerusalem with amice aforethought? Nope. Going further back - did David dance with all his might in a fiddle back chasuble? No.

Did the disciples, on the day of Pentecost, ask the Spirit to give them five minutes as their tippets weren't straight? Not in the best manuscripts, no.

No, I've checked. The sheep aren't separated from the goats on the basis of how complicated their clothing is. The Prodigal Son's depravation - even in his brother's imagination - didn't include wearing a onesie. The Sermon on the Mount doesn't include an injunction that the biretta-wearers will inherit the earth. Dives didn't wear a Spandex jumpsuit, and Lazarus wasn't in his best Gaudete Sunday rose outfit.

In short, I don't think God cares what you wear.

Apart from Lycra cycling shorts on middle aged men. MAMILs make the baby Jesus cry.

Open-Minded Mission

A quick thought.

Next time you hear about somebody else's mission idea (which will by definition have been at least a bit of a success), don't have either of these two responded:

"That's great! We must do precisely the same at St Murgatroyd's!"


"That's good for them. But it would never work at St Murgatroyd's."

Why not respond with

"That was a good idea for their setting. I wonder how we could be creative in mission at St Murgatroyd's?"

Obviously, if you don't worship at St Murgatroyd's, you can ignore the above advice. It only works at St Murgatroyd's, not at your place. You're different. Your church is in a town / village / is too old / cold / fallen down / full of earwigs. Not like at St Murgatroyd's.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Liturgy of Yaya Toure's Birthday

Much angst and public excitement over the news that Yaya Toure may leave Man City because they forgot his birthday.

If true, this is terrible news. No multi millionaire should have to fly to Brazil to play in a World Cup knowing his club has forgotten his birthday. Imagine the stress of that hanging over your head. After all, Jose Mourinho never forgets how old Samuel Eto'o is.

And so, to assist Man City and their precious flowers, I would like to offer up this liturgy of Birthday Celebration, adapted from our own forthcoming Improved Beaker Common Prayer (New Hipster Version).

Manuel Pellegrini: Now then, lads. Training is over. And so - does anybody have any birthdays in the next week?

[ Everybody looks shy and embarrassed. Eventually one bashful player puts his hand up]

MP: Not you, Nimely. You're not very famous, and who's going to trust you with a new car?

[ A more famous player puts up his hand ]

MP: Yaya! Come up here.

[ Yaya Toure stands bashfully at the front]

MP: OK boys, altogether...

Squad and Interpreters: "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Yaya, happy birthday to you,"

[ Half hearted round of applause ]

MP: And don't forget the lucky dip for a special gift.... Oh look! A Porsche! Happy birthday, Yaya!

YT: But I wanted a Bugatti like Roberto Carlos! You don't love me! I'm off to Real Madrid! People there will respect a tortured, unloved genius!

[ Tears may be shed before bedtime ]

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Should I Use this Sermon Illustration?

You know, we're a democratic group here at the Beaker Folk. Believe in every-member ministry. I certainly do. Cuts my work right down, that does. So we let people lead worship, or even preach sermons. And there's nothing helps a dull sermon better than a good illustration. And people often come to me when they're writing sermons, and they say to me, "Archdruid, is this sermon illustration useful?"

To which I'll normally say, "No. God is nothing like a meerkat" or "Geraldo's healing from piles may still be something he's not shouting about" or "Your son is now 14. Telling the story of how he covered himself in dog food and thought he was a casserole when he was 4 may scar him for life."

But I refer you to my comment earlier about cutting my work down. And the way I can best do that, I think, is by cutting out all the obvious, stupid questions at an early stage.

So here is a flowchart you can use, if you are ever called upon to write a sermon, to decide whether a sermon illustration's a good idea or not. From now on, if you ask me what I think about one, that's gonna be a fiver.

Falling off the Veg of the World

It was a nice send-off for Aspril today, as the remote-controlled boat containing his ashes was driven into the middle of the duck pond before being detonated. I like to think the Beaker Folk of old would approve.

The enjoyable funeral, of course, didn't take away the shock of his unexpected departure. Aspril was obsessed with eating the right foods, as instructed by the health pages of the national Press, to live as long as possible. To that end, he drank precisely one glass of fresh-pressed redcurrant and acai juice a day; shunned all meat and alcohol; and ensured he only ate high-fibre, low-sugar, low-fat food.

We believe it was the BBC's article on how to avoid diabetes that actually did for him. Gerbert, whom he hitched a lift to Kingston with, said that he was really focused on how to ensure he ate only two meals a day. We suspect that, while doing the mental calculations as to how he could fit in breakfast and lunch without needing tea, and how early he'd have to get up, Aspril accidentally drove his trolley into a massive health-food display. He sadly expired after being buried in a massive pile of lentils and mung beans.

Still, he went the way he would have wanted.

Mere Incarnation

With a tip of the pointy Druidic hat to the Anglican Continuum blog, which provides the link to Mere Orthodoxy's  rather nice post on CS Lewis, the "Invisible Anglican".

This remarks on Lewis's rooting within one tradition - he was a relatively conservative, relatively central Anglican - which therefore enables him to speak to and draw from many other traditions.

I'd argue that it's also true of another great predecessor in our faith, the definitive one, Jesus himself.

It's crucial to the faith that Jesus was a specific human being. With a race; a gender; a sexuality; a religion (fairly orthodox, Pharisaic, Judaism); a country; a family; a context; an education; a personal history. We could not be saved by God being all Humanity. It's meaningless, fleshless, unearthed, and therefore unredeeming.

To save all humans, Jesus had to be a human, not all humans. This fact put him on certain sides of the divisions with which we break up our world - all the things in the list above, and others. It therefore gave us the chance to make all sorts of dodgy rules based on what he happened to be - and what he wasn't (female, ginger, Caucasian). But it was a price that had to be paid. A Cosmic, Abstrated, All-humanity Christ cannot have oil poured on him by a weeping woman, cry at a tomb, be born of a woman, die on a cross. Only a specific Jesus can do that.

The Art of Liturgical Explanation

Now I've chosen this word "Liturgical" carefully here.

Because the Art of Liturgical Explanation isn't something that happens so much in churches that think they're "liturgical".

In "liturgical" churches, there's less Liturgical Explanation. They have less need of it. They have an order of service. They have rubrics. People have less need to be told to sit, to stand, to put their hands in the air. Actually, now I think of it, have you ever seen a rubric telling the congregation to put their hands in the air, or saying "singing in tongues may happen"? No. Nor me. That would be unspontaneous. And spontaneity is all about being spontaneous at the right time. Not planned in advance.

But in churches without properly printed out liturgies, such as Proper Protestants, or Beaker Folk, Liturgical Explanations are really important.

They really started off, I guess, when people needed some guidance. When you have a service book, but no idea what hymns the worship leader is going to pick, you need to be told. A big bingo-number board at the front ain't no use, in these circumstances. And so a modicum of explanation was required. "Now we're gonna sing number 34". Nothing wrong with that.

But then worship leaders realised, given you've got the chance to say "Now we're gonna sing number 34", you can pad your act a bit. Tell people what's spiritually or theologically significant about hymn 34. Tell them what hymn 34 means to you. In small doses, this can be useful - pointing out the flow of worship, the way the songs join with the Scripture and the sermon to tell the whole story of the act of worship - that's good. When you're 10 minutes into an explanation of how "Oh, we are more than conquerors" cannot be seen as triumphalist in a bad way, but in fact reflects the reality of the daily struggle - with a long diversion into the struggles with certain kinds of sin that - ahem - a close friend of the worship leader had, that's when you're into the Art of Liturgical Explanation. If the worship leader is really on the ball, s/he can then reflect on what singing the song meant to everybody, after singing it. Or, if the group is really clued up, why not get someone to play an instrumental while the post-song reflection on the previous song segues into the pre-song liturgical explanation of the next one?

There's really no limit to where Liturgical Explanation can be used. You can explain, before the final blessing, that you're asking God's blessing on everybody. You can easily pad the Notices out to 10 minutes by explaining that the Notices are themselves part of the worship, that they reflect a church that is alive and doing things, and then by praying for each item on the Notices - in turn. And then telling everybody that, if they were too enraptured by the theology to listen to the Notices, they're on the Notice Sheet. And will be on the OHP afterwards. And the website. And Facebook. And, repeatedly, on Twitter.

Then there's the Liturgical Explanation of the Liturgy. That's where, in certain churches of an Evangelical tradition, you explain that, although you are about to say that the bread and wine are in fact far more than just bread and wine, you won't really mean it. Not as in, really mean it. Lots of explanation of the word "symbol" can come in handy at that point. Ideally before, during and after. And, if you have a service book, print a strong explanation saying "This is not literal!" down the side. Ironic, really. Who would have thought that just those few sentences in the Bible aren't to be taken literally, unlike Genesis 2, say, or Revelations 12?

But the real art of the Art of Liturgical Explanation is shown in that undertaken around the Message and the Reading. A really bright worship leader will get in quick, after the main reading but before the Message/Sermon/Talk/Few Random thoughts, and suggest a prayer for the Preacher. If they're on the ball, and concerned that the Preacher may have ideas of their own, the Worship Leader will be able to use the prayer to outline the main points of the sermon that the Preacher ought to have been preparing. If enough doubt can be sown in the Preacher's mind, who knows? Especially if the Preacher, like the Worship Leader, tends to go without notes. They could end up preaching the sermon the Worship Leader would like, after all.

And then after the sermon - ideally not during, that's rude - the Worship Leader gets another chance. Now, the congregation can be invited to reflect on the wonderful things that were in the sermon. Or, if it's put the right way, the things that should have been in it. Sometimes a post-sermon reflection on the sermon can be longer than the sermon. And it can even be theologically diametrically opposed to it, while still saying what a good sermon it was.

It is at this point that a couple of real guerrilla pieces of Liturgical Explanation can be adopted. One is where the person down to do the intercessions reflects on the sermon during the prayers - conveniently adapting it to the concerns of the day or, if the intercessor is really creative, using current events to shoot the sermon down in flames. "And we know that some believe you promised never to send a flood again, O Lord, but when we see the events in the Somerset Levels, we wonder if this were merely figurative, and not to be pronounced confidently from a pulpit..." was Jasnold's rather cutting contribution, back in the winter, after a terribly fundamentalist sermon from Dagmire. And then there's the truly audacious one - the guerrilla prophecy from the congregation. If somebody gets up quick, and starts by praising the sermon, they can have a good three or four minutes before anyone realises they're actually trashing it. "And I really appreciated the heartfelt way that Mansfield explained the literal reality of the 6-day creation. I find his naive, gullible faith so heart-warming. Wasn't it Our Lord who said those who are quite childish are closest to the Kingdom of Heaven?"

When it all comes down to it, I have a theory about the Art of Liturgical Explanation. Beyond the fact that some people are genuinely trying to help, but just talking to much. That's got to explain some of it. It otherwise comes down, I think, to two things:

1) We're not quite sure we trust the congregation to respond appropriately without an endless amount of coaching. What might happen if we let them work out what the hymn meant, for themselves? It'd be carnage.
2) Isn't silence scary? If I'm not talking - then who is?

I've got the answer though. Rubrics. They're better thought-out, in better English, and save time because you don't have to read them out. And, if you get enough rubrics, you end up with a prayer book so thick, that it's got all three external dimensions the same size. It's as thick as it's long as it's wide.

And then you've got a Rubrics Cube.

Monday 19 May 2014

UKIP If You Want To

There's a wave of anti-UKIP sentiment seeping Twitter.

Honestly, you can't go ten seconds without somebody tweeting a picture of something European, on the grounds that it will annoy Nigel Farage. And there is an incessant barrage of Farage and his comments about Romanians. But I wonder.

First up - I will not vote UKIP. I think they're a bunch of wild backwoodspeople, I don't trust them and I don't like xenophobia. And some of their candidates and language are xenophobic. Some of them make Colonel Blimp look like Bertrand Russell, frankly.

And I realise that most of the Twitter people who are making jokes about UKIP are preaching to the gallery. They're making jokes to their UKIP-disliking friends. Jokes that display a certain amount of fear and concern, I suspect, but aren't read much by anyone who will vote UKIP.

But if the left-veering, UKIP-disliking Twitterati continue, I wonder. There are people - some of them natural Labour supporters, some Tories. Maybe even, somewhere, a few LibDems. There must be some, somewhere, surely? And they're not xenophobic or racist. But they are wondering about the rate of immigration. They won't be living in the leafy, traditional Tory shires, where Eastern Europeans are a handy addition to the seasonal agricultural workforce. But they're going to be listening to all the abuse of UKIP and thinking, why are they being so villified? Not, mostly, intellectually, but in cartoons, caricatures of their policy based on the views of individual candidates? Could it be, they might wonder, that UKIP really are onto something? Is there no smoke without a fire? Could all these leftier, clever people be scared that their cover has been blown?

All I know is, the day can come when you protest too much. I won't be voting for UKIP. But I sure as anything won't be retweeting too many funnies about them. It might imply I thought they were winning.

Ceremony of Ritual Clout-Casting

All: So... The temperature is warm already. There's a happy sun on the forecast. There's a hosepipe ban being  contemplated in Somerset.

Archdruid: Are there UV warnings?

All: Yea, verily.

Archdruid: And is the pollen count like unto the grains of sand upon the beach, or unto the hordes of Gunner-ites claiming they always said it was right to stick with Arsene Wenger?

All: Yea, even unto the fourth generation.

Archdruid: Then I must consult the holy tree of clout-casting prognostication.


Archdruid: Then cast your clout while ye may.

Reading from the Book of Genesis, 2:25 - "And the man and the woman were both naked, but they were not ashamed."


Sunday 18 May 2014

Midrash on "I am a Lighthouse"

I am a lighthouse
A shining and bright house.
If you are drawn to my light
You'll smash onto the rocks.
Because a lighthouse is a warning
It's not meant to be attractive.
Actually, when you think about it
a lighthouse is a very bad metaphor.
And Brighthouse sells you electrical devices you can't afford
at remarkable interest rates.
So thinking about it,
I'm not going to be singing this one again.
Doesn't make much sense
and has awkward connotations.

Lines on the Anniversary of the Death of John Betjeman (1984)

The corbelled roof of St Petroc
No longer echoes to prog rock
The trendy 80s priests retire
And go to live in some dull Shire
Where in a "House for Duty" post
They'll have 10 churches at the most.

The ocean waves crash on the strand
Like the drummer in that worship band
Who groaned when playing Kendrick, G
And oft-times claimed that rather he
Would play in the hall of the Crimson King
Than have another Taize to sing.

Among the upper class, the shock!
The vicar has to calm his flock
Turns out that Miss Joan Hunter Dunn
has come out as a lesbian.
Poor Johnny's mind is in a whirl
Who knew Joan would fall for a girl?

Her marriage, since by Church turned down,
Is at the posh hotel in town.
Joan H.D. there shall plight her troth,
Not to some dim, ale-drinking oaf
But to the Tennis Girl so strong
Whom she's been after all along.

And so the Eighties, brash and new
which Betjeman thought sent askew
his world of churches, steam and lust
for sporty girls, have turned to dust.
St Petroc Church, remote and small,
Stands, changeless, in amongst it all.

20 Science Facts that Prove God Exists

One day, the sun will expand in size to the point that it burns up the earth's oceans. But until that day, there will always be the need to put scientific proofs of God's existence, based on the Goldilocks theory or whatever, on Facebook. So here's a few for you,

1. Isn't it great that God put the ice caps at the Poles, where nobody lives? If we all lived at the Poles, we would struggle to support so many people.

2. Bananas are just the right shape and size to fit in your mouth.*

3. If there were no blue in the Sun's light, the entire Chelsea football team would be invisible. Not just Fernando Torres.

4. Numbers are in decimal, which is really handy as we have 10 fingers.

5. Tree trunks are just the right length to reach the ground.

6. If evolution is adaptation to the environment, how come we evolved bottoms before we invented chairs? Doesn't make any logical sense. And these scientists are meant to study the evidence.

7. The longest days are in the Summer. So you can stay outside in the evening because it's warm. If the longest days were in Winter we'd all stay in out of the cold and wouldn't be able to make the most of the daylight. You can't tell me that's just a coincidence.

8. If there was evolution, how come there's still Jimmy Carr?

9. If Gravity repelled instead of attracting, we'd all be on the Moon, where there's no air. Which would have slowed the development of Civilisation no end.

10. If God hd made cats look like rats, we wouldn't want to cuddle the evil, mouse-murdering, diseases spreading monsters.

11. If Gravity were 30% weaker, there would be no need for diet food. And then the cows that produce skimmed milk would all have to be put down.

12. If there were more dimensions, flats could be smaller in Camden. This would mean that Coldplay might never have left.

13. If Gravity were really like a giant stretch of black rubber, you could use the Universe as a massive pondliner. And then we would all drown. Since it's not, scientists are wrong and God is good!

14. Jeremy Clarkson's foot is exactly the right size to fit in his mouth. Coincidence? Or God-incidence?

15. If the earth rotated twice as fast we'd all fly off. Twice as slowly and the working day would be interminable and the EU 48 hour rules unworkable. If it stopped and rotated the other way intermittently, we'd all feel seasick.

16. If Luton were exactly 20 miles further from London, it would mean that Bedford was much bigger.

17. It's no accident that humanists are all drawn to anoraks, so people know to avoid them.

18. God allowed life on earth because, if little green people had lived on Mars, that would have been an awful colour clash.

19. God put all the gay people in Brighton, because that's where he put all the cool shops.

20. God doesn't let it rain in the deserts, because nobody lives there so it would just be a waste. And besides, it would all evaporate.

*with due accreditation to Norman Clegg, in Last of the Summer Wine.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Cagoule Running

Just a minor administrative announcement. I've decided to restructure the committees responsible for wet weather gear.

Being a community dedicated to worshipping while surrounded by the wonders of creation, it's imperative we stay protected from damp. The weather can, after all, play havoc with your appreciation of nature. But if you're gonna hand out wet weather equipment, someone's got to have the job of organising it.

But by the time you're dealing with the Macintosh Rota, the Waterproofs Team, the Galoshes Committee and the Wellies Task Force, there's a lot of overlapping responsibilities. Things were getting fraught.  So we decided they all needed to report into one body, which could then coordinate their activities.

It's got no executive authority, mind. It's more of an umbrella group.

Friday 16 May 2014

Not the Sunshine, Moonlight, or Good times

After referees in general, Mike Riley, Europe, TV, Eden Hazard and I don't like to think what else, Jose Mourinho has given a post-season interview in which he has finally admitted what is to blame for Chelsea not winning any trophies this year.

Turns out it's the Boogie.

Digging Audrey Holes

The original Beaker Folk are renowned for their "Ritual Holes". Something which Frances Pryor in particular has noticed - the habit of ritually digging a hole, and then filling it in again.

The most famous of which holes are the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge. 56 holes that were dug, and then filled in again. Suggestions as to what they were for are legion. Something to do with human fertility? A calculator for the Metonic Calender? Personally, I reckon it was a very early attempt to calculate the Ultimate Question to the Answer of Life, the Universe and Everything. 7 x 8 = 42.

Here in Husborne Crawley, we tend to prefer the "Audrey Holes". These are ritual in nature, as well. Basically, whenever Audrey comes up with a new ritual, some people dig a hole and hide in it until it goes away. This can include anything involving sin-shredders, cairns, ritual sowing of runner beans or - especially - clowns.

Yes, I know that we're "fools for Christ". But why this involved introducing eight of the most frightening things known to humanity to this morning's Little Pebbles Creative Worship is beyond me. I've never seen such small people dig such large holes so fast, driven by fearful memories of the Northampton Clown.

We had to disperse the clowns with water cannon in the end. Harsh, I know. But still better than locking them up in the Beaker Oubliette, with the Morris Men we captured on May Morning.

Thursday 15 May 2014

On the Pointlessness of Evangelical Anathemata

Never seen this blog before. But Andy Gill lists some famous "evangelicals" (not sure I'd put CS Lewis in that category, anyway) who would be called heretics by other evangelicals.

It's quite a good point. But there is another serious point to be made here, underlined by the inclusion of Martin Luther in the list of "heretics".

You see, to the Catholic Church, Luther was a heretic. Excommunicated for his Diet of Worms, which was presumably not allowed in Lent or something. But Luther put himself outside the Catholic Church, and that made him a heretic. And when Luther decided that we could interpret Scripture otherwise than the Catholic Church determines, he opened Pandora's Box, didn't he. So Calvin could also decide to interpret Scripture his own way. But not poor old Servetus, whom Calvin had executed for.... erm.... heresy. So even Calvin had standards. But not Luther's. And not Servetus's. And not the Popes. Some would call Calvin a hypocritical, murderous old get in a dodgy hat. Me, for example. I would.

Once the genie was out the bottle, "heretic" became a relative, and meaningless term. It's no good one evangelical complaining that another evangelical isn't a proper evangelical. The word can mean what you like. I can declare anathema on Aled Jones because, according to my view of Scripture, walking in the air is proof of witchcraft. That's where we are now.

You can't claim people are heretics because they don't agree with what the Bible says, because if you do, you're actually saying they don't agree with what you claim the Bible says. And that's, frankly, just your opinion. If you want to be able to call people heretics, you need one, unified, consistent, policed, catholic Church.

Most of us haven't got it. We're all heretics now. Except the Catholics, obviously. They're OK.

The Moon and Fourpence

Nothing like a May Full Moon to bring out the more neo-pagan side of the Beaker Folk. I do try to keep them in check. But they're never easy.

So the newly reconstituted Beaker Quire, consisting only of people playing instruments in the list in Psalm 150, finished playing "Mambo de la Luna". And we were all relaxing about "the island where they live for today, cos tomorrow's just too far away". What a lesson that is to us - "consider the lilies" and all that.

But seduced by the beauty of that mad, mad moon as he was, Minsmir ran off into the woods, screaming that henceforth he would love only Diana, huntress of the silver bow.

Bad start to the evening. But worse for Minsmir than we initially imagined. Because he tore into Wodewose Leys, the clearing where the Wodewose likes to go of a moonlit night, and sing sad songs in his far-ancient tongue of the wosemaiden he wooed and won when the earth was young, and the elven folk sang for joy 'neath star-bedecked skies.

And Minsmir, storming in crying out his praises for his new love, so distressed our mournful Wose that he received the butt end of his club, right on the hooter.

I've just discovered that Minsmir is still stuck in Mimosa Wood, cowering in a hollow while Wodewose throws hedgehogs at him. It's not good news for Minsmir, and it's not helping the hedgehogs. But nobody is going to get involved. It is a terrible thing to confront a Wodewose chucking the little creatures of the forest around.

I'm not sure what we learn from this. Maybe that lapsing into paganism is a dangerous thing. Or, at least, that it never does to be an overenthusiastic convert. Nobody ever ended up with his bum in a hedge, being pelted with hedgehogs, for lighting a tea light.

Two Years Along the Watchtower

Congratulations to All Along the Watchtower,  celebrating two years as a blog. When you consider that the average life of a blog is about 4 posts, that's really impressive.  Especially at that post rate.

Lefty Clergy and the Tory Party at Prayer

It was Andrew Brown of the Grubaid newspaper who put his finger quite nicely on a politico-religious hypothesis - generally borne out, I think. Certainly I agreed with it when I heard it, at that Guardian Cheese-and-post-colonial-guilt party.

"Seatrout's Law" states that, particularly in the Church of England, the congregations tend to be more conservative on economic issues and more liberal on social ones. The bishops as a body, and the institution as a whole, are conservative on social issues and leftwing on economic ones. Whereas, in my own addendum to Seatrout's Law, I would suggest that clergy - at least on Twitter - are more left wing all round.

And I would like to suggest why this might be.

First up, Church of England lay people tend to be, by the standards of the country, relatively well off and well educated. They are therefore natural Tory folk. They will accept the State - as a national body - is most efficient in delivering things like defence, social security, roads. But they will also generally tend to think that in other areas, the State should back off. And they will quite likely believe - with a great deal of good reason, in my opinion - that what happens to the money they have earned, over a certain point, is up to them. It's theirs, to take home, to spend on port, or support the Church, the local school or Medcins Sans Frontiers as they feel led. They are socially remarkably progressive - many have had 20 years of experience of women priests, and quite often a lifetime of knowing, or knowing of gay people and gay priests. And, in their judgement, they've not done too badly, so live and let live.

While the clergy, by and large, are already part of two redistributive, centralised systems - the Church and the State. Both take money from people, to support others. In the case of the Church, that's mostly the clergy. So it seems to me they mustn't be too uncomfortable with the idea as a whole. They can be progressive socially, as that fits nicely with their worldview. If Jesus was about being kind to people, then let's be kind, by all means. The Green party are kind to Nature as well, so many clergy are warmly attracted to the Greens. Most clergy have arts rather than science degrees. Just thought I'd mention that.

The Church institution itself, meanwhile, being in existence as an institution, is going to be directly in favour of the current state of affairs. Without centralised, paternalistic,  redistributive systems, the Church as institution wouldn't exist. The current state of affairs will do nicely. And, for institutions, change as a whole is tricky. So leaving things economically and socially - will do fine, thanks.

It will be interesting to see how this state of affairs changes as the Church of England becomes populated to a greater degree with young, socially - conservative Anglicans who have moved to this country. Then the current crop of left/left clergy will have a whole new challenge.

I only really went into this ramble to make one little point. When clergy on Twitter throw vitriol at the supporters of UKIP, or even the Tories, they're attacking the intelligence of their own congregations. Just thought I'd mention it.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

European Voting by Houses

How the Clergy are going to vote at the EU Elections

Mostly Labour, with quite a lot of Lib Dem and Green

How the Congregation tell the Clergy they are going to vote

Mostly Tory or Labour, with quite a few Lib Dem

How the Congregation are really going to vote 

Loads of UKIP and Labour, and not much anything else. Forget Green.

The Church Committee - The Mythic Personae

There are, it is true, many types of Church Committee - from the Anglican PCC to the Circuit Stewards Meeting, to the Cabal that just knifed the last Independent Baptist Minister at Salem Chapel.

And we are all individuals. And every Church committee is uniquely and wonderfully And yet, arranged round a table, or in serried ranks facing the front - according to whether the Minister trained in the 1960s or 1890s, roles are adopted. In the same way that the Minister will adopt one of the two mythic roles about to be described, each of the mythic committee roles will also be adopted. And, through this current generation, the age-old battles - from Dionysus and Apollo to Jordan and Peter Andre - are recreated.

And so, on this Feast of Matthias - Patron Saint of people who get co-opted onto the Church Committee when the Treasurer resigns - let us discuss these mythic committee members. The archetypes, if you will, of their trades.

The Minister may adopt one of two Mythic Personae:

Fr Nose-Best will brook no opposition, stifle all dissent and cut short any discussion. Business will mostly be around the need for a pilgrimage somewhere or, with more evangelical circles, the need for increased discipling, or bromide in the Young Singles Group tea.  After Fr Nose-Best has declared the meeting closed and swept from the Committee Room, to go and terrify his or her spouse (for these Mythic Personae are open to all genders and none) or cower from his mother as appropriate, the Committee reconvenes, unminuted and in secret, to sort out the real business of the Church.

Rev Arundel-Day, on the other hand, is deeply committed to dialogue, democracy and interactivity. All viewpoints are welcome, and all points are valid. Including three hour diversions into the health of the speaker's dog, and detailed quotations from Church Committees from 3 or 4 decades ago. The viewpoints of people who died so long ago they were buried in the Churchyard before it was closed, as expressed through their children or children's children unto the fourth generation, will also be admitted as valid. When Rev Arundel-Day is in the chair, the ghosts of former ministers stalk the room, raising points of order and explaining how things were in their day. If the Lawyer questions whether communing with the dead in this way is wrong, the Rev will explain that s/he wouldn't like to jeopardise the ecumenical discussions with the Spiritualists. In the Rev's church, the meetings go on past midnight. But even people at the bus stop, who never go to Church, know their views have been taken into account.

Well, I've mentioned The Lawyer now....The Lawyer's job is to keep the Committee on the straight and narrow with (according to the denomination or tradition) Canon Law, Church Rules, the Scripture or the Boy's Big Book of Danger. This ensures every discussion ends up in the minutiae of faculties, John Wesley's Sermon no XLII, the Book of Judges etc. When informed s/he is wrong, the Lawyer will study the fine details later, with the aim of having decisions overturned on technicalities at the next meeting. If the Lawyer is on form, the corrections to Matters Arising on their own can take days.

The Voice of the People will object to most things, on the grounds that many people in the church are against them. TVOTP will frequently raise commonly held grievances, or new and exciting initiative that "people" want.  When challenged to name specific members of the Church that TVOTP is representing, TVOTP will politely point out that anonymity must be respected.

The Involver always wants to be involved. Any subcommittee going, any new initiative, any task to be carried out - the Involver is there, volunteering. Of course, the subcommittees rarely deliver, and the tasks rarely happen. The Involver is simply too busy. The Involver then feels sad, and gets onto another subcommittee to feel more wanted. But the Involver always tries.  Which is different to....

..... The Inert Helper. Who doesn't want anybody but the Inert Helper to manage anything within the IH's sphere influence. To this end, bright ideas and new initiatives will be gratefully received. The IH goes out looking for ways to help. In fact, says IH, I'm going to see the builder / printer/ Archimandrite tomorrow.  I'll sort it. Or one of the IH's relatives has just the right skill.
Six months down the line, when someone else does it out of frustration, IH is deeply hurt, and says it was top of the list. People just weren't patient. 

The Resigner is just waiting for the thing to resign over. You've no way of knowing what it will be. Could be the use of modern, or old, language in songs or liturgy. Could be the kids making a noise. Could be the plans to turn the Crypt into a Laser Maze. Could be anything. When the Resigner resigns, it will be dramatic. That's actually what the Resigner likes; the drama.  If you're the minister, just accept the resignation. The Resigner will then either withdraw the resignation - giving you all another chance before resigning again in a few weeks - or really go. If the latter, don't worry your committee is short of one Resigner. You'll get another one along shortly.
Very occasionally, the minister will turn out to be the Resigner. In which case you are blessed to live in interesting times.

Nismo, Slayer of Universes is the most potentially fun, yet also hardest work, of any Committee member. Nismo's ideal is a strong minister who agrees with Nismo. Unfortunately, all the strong ministers so far have disagreed with Nismo about everything.
Nismo is a rich and apparently inexhaustible supplier of agenda items and initiatives. The minister is held to account on everything that happens in church. Emails and letters are sent to the Bishop/Superintendent/ God. 
Nismo doesn't get any joy there.  So petitions are raised. Somewhere around the 3rd strong minister who doesn't agree with Nismo, the penny drops. There is, Nismo realises, a common factor in all of Nismo's bad relationships with ministers.
That's right. It's the congregation. Nismo realises that only two possibilities remain.  One is, if there is a vacancy, to evolve into the Resigner. Like Pokemon, Mythic Committee Personae can evolve. The other alternative is to candidate for the ministry. If Nismo is minister, things will be done right. The pastor, keen for a quiet life, will be an enthusiastic supporter, as well.

The Minister's Fixers are there to ensure the minister wins the arguments. Whatever anyone says - no matter how rational, and no matter how silly what the minister said, they will sit there - looking quietly supportive of the minister. If you win the argument, and one of the Fixers leaves early - just check your brake pipes. You remember what happened to Mabel? 

Double-Barreled quite often really does have a double-barreled name. But the Mythic Persona gets his or her title from an uncanny ability to shoot down any new idea the minute it takes flight. No respecter of the honour of the sport, any fledgling idea that breaks cover - even if it's only walking - is likely to get both barrels. What the Church doesn't need, in the view of D-B, is any new ideas. The old ones were bad enough. Why can't we just learn, and leave things as they are?

Everybody else just wants to help out, and get home before 10 o'clock. They rarely do. Get home, that is.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Who you Gonna Call? ClergyBusters!

Does your vicar wear sandals with socks?

Are you a Methodist whose minister is a Calvinist?

Is the pastor thinking of taking out the pews?

Then you need to get rid of them as soon as possible. Why waste time sending emails to the bishop/superintendent/God? They're just too likely to talk about rules and process, act fairly, want evidence, delay things, or threaten to call the police on you.

But now, you can phone ClergyBusters! Simply phone the ClergyBusters! hotline, and then enter the following number to be directed to an expert in dealing with your specific clerical problem.....

01  Has a beard
02   Carries a burning thurible at all times
03   Rings the bells in the early hours (not a euphemism)
04   Says "call me Chazza"
05   Keeps goats
06   Sabellian
07   Semi-Pelagian
08   Hemi-Demi-Semi-Pelagian
09   Removed the pews
10   Installed pews
11   Sleeps in the pews at night, because his wife has thrown him out for snoring.
12   Burnt the pews
13   Conducts exorcisms in the creche
14   Wears a onesie on day off
15   Wears a onesie at Mass
16   Wants to knock out the walls to form "a really exciting worship space"
17   Cancelled 6pm BCP, just because the last person attended in 1967
18   Doesn't believe in God
19   Doesn't believe in the Bishop
20   Has a rottweiler called "Beelzebub"
21   Converts the box pews into a sauna
22   Likes Enya
23   Wants to be Enya
24   Loves the homeless
25   Moved the homeless into the church
26   Writes a blog
27   Writes a blog pretending to be a violent archdruid
28   Appears on "Gogglebox"
29   Appears on "Crimewatch"
30   Introduces liturgical dance
31   Introduces liturgical trance 
32   Introduces liturgical garage
33   Wears a biretta
34   Rides a lambretta
35   Mostly eats zucchetta
36   Likes lace
37   Really likes lace
38   Can barely be seen for lace
39   Shoots the sparrow trapped in the belfry
40   Claims to be the god of hellfire
41   Paints a representation of their nightmares of the Last Judgement on the whitewashed church  walls. Using highlighters.
42   Relentlessly quotes Jurgen Moltmann
43   Goes hunting
44   Goes shooting
45   Goes dogging
46   Replaces the ancient, noble language of the  BCP with Common Worship
47   Replaces the ancient, noble language of the BCP with the Klingon Prayer Book
48   Believes in the imminent Second Coming
49   Believes s/he is the Second Coming
50   Juggles as a sermon illustration. At every Family Service
51   Converts the baptistry into a jacuzzi
52   Converts the baptistry into a ball pit
53   Introduces a bass guitarist into the music group
54   Introduces death metal into the music group
55   Tells the Church Wardens they'll be first up against the wall when the Revolution comes
56   Does puppet shows in the pulpit instead of Evensong
57   Wears tweed jacket and chinos
58   Laments the dearth of virgins in the village when May Eve is approaching
59   Introduces gestalt therapy instead of Confession
60   Builds an igloo from copies of the Methodist Hymn Book, climbs inside and claims to be a hermit
61   Doesn't answer the manse phone number within three rings, even at 3am when s/he is clearly at   home
62   Seen in the pub
63   Gets tired after 16 hours days
64   Jacks the vicarage up on wheels and takes it on sabbatical
65   Says "it barely seems worth it" after the opening hymn and pronounces the final blessing
66   Puts up bunting when the Treasurer says she may call it a day after 47 years
67   Goes skinny-dipping in the pond on the village green
68   Claims vodka & orange is one of your five a day
69   Doesn't have a beard
70   Puts solar panels on the church roof. On the inside.
71   Changes the choristers' outfits to hi viz and puts UV lighting in the chancel
72   Throws hymn books at people who fall asleep during the sermon
73   Is a bit boring sometimes
74   Phones you up every night to check you've said both Daily Offices.  If not, comes round to read  them with you
75   Eats Creme Eggs in Lent
76    Eats Hot Cross Buns in Advent
77   Insists the opening Procession shuffle on their hands and knees because of "there's a sniper in the  pulpit"
78    Plants wildflowers in the graveyard. Wildflowers that have mysterious stings, beat sticks against  their boles, and wander around the place
79   Replaces the Lady's Bright Hour with a poker tournament
80   Is a woman
81   Bans fair-trade coffee on the grounds that "it only encourages them to be inefficient" 
82   Declares war on the URC
83   Preaches long sermons
84   Rides the Archdeacon out of town on a rail
85   Explains theological mysteries through the medium of mime
86   Believes "Father is always right"
87   Reveals "Father" has been sitting, mummified, in the front room of the manse for 30 years
88   Makes the new curate wear a "Mr Blobby" outfit at all times
89   Talks to trees
90   Hugs trees
91   Claims that trees are her only friends
92   Bishops always go missing after confirmations
93   Sometimes misses whole days after baking "special cakes"
94   Lights the Advent candles in the wrong order
95   Wears Pink on the 4th Sunday in Lent
96   Calls local radio phone-ins claiming to be a lorry-driver called Ken
97   Meetings last too long
98   Punctuates sermons with illustrations in the form of Country & Western ballads
99   Replaces the KJV with the NIV
00  Replaces the KJV with the "Little Book of Calm"

ClergyBusters! Moving the man or woman of God in your life, out of town fast.