Tuesday 30 September 2014

An Apology

I would like to apologise.

Not for anything I've done or said, of course. I never intended any harm in that.

But I would like to apologise if anything I have done or said has resulted in other people being offended.

You should be aware that I never intended you to be offended by anything I may have done or said.

In fact, you should never have found out about them.

And then you wouldn't have found them offensive would you?

In many ways then, the fact that you are offended by things I may have done or said is your own fault.

If you weren't so easily-offended, or indeed so well-informed, you wouldn't be offended, would you?

You can't blame me for your offence-threshold, or the things you know. They're your own responsibility.

So if anything I've said or done has caused you offence, then I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that you've sunk to that kind of thing.

But don't worry.

I forgive you.

Monday 29 September 2014

Tangled in the Web

Odd behaviour from Grednil after Saturdays "Animals of the Fall" event, in which we tried to empathise with those creatures that most represent Autumn.

Grednil appears to have started to channel the spirit of a large spider. He's spent the last couple of days scurrying into corners when people switch the lights on, and weaving large webs out of shredded shopping bags.

We really ought to do something about it - either get in a doctor, an exorcist or an animal trainer. But we're leaving it a few weeks. It's just quite handy that he's keeping the wasps down.

Bend it like Geller

Bouncing out of the 70s like a Time Lord's space hopper, here comes spoon-bender and friend of Michael Jackson, Uri Geller.
And he tells us the reason why all the new iPhones bend after a short period of use: psychic excitement.

That's right. After all the previously over-hyped launches of massively overpriced technology that Apple has persuaded the ageing hippies and thrusting execs of the world to buy, it's only Mark 6 that has generated so much geeky anticipation that it warps in its owners' pockets.

Mr Geller  kindly offers, presumably for a reasonable fee, to become a kind of bendy iPhone evangelist. Though he may be missing the point.

If it was hippy excitement that bent the iPhones, and not their well-padded Baby Boomer rear ends as I personally suspect, it's no good getting a 70s huckster to tell everybody how brilliant Apple are. That's only gonna make things worse. Blimey, the iPhones could start sublimating, like elemental Astatine, from the sheer power of their and their owners' synergistic smugness.

No. If you want to stop iPhones bending, and if Uri Geller is right, then Apple need someone to point out that the iPhone 6 is no great shakes, it's probably gonna fail to cope when the clocks change, Apple customers are mugs, and a decent Android is, all-round, a much better idea.

I'm ready for my close-up now.......

Sunday 28 September 2014

Today's News Yesterday

Abelard "to step down" (gently, and walk quite carefully for a while) after affair is revealed.

Henry VIII resigns from Catholic Church, joins UK Independence Church. Thomas More calls it a "betrayal".

Grinling Gibbons apologises for carving he sent to Mercurius Rusticus reporter in "sting" operation.

Crusaders launch "limited operation" to recapture Holy Land. "No intention of a lengthy campaign".

Margin of Error

I'd like to thank Glapthorn for this morning's presentation. A lively romp through the rural stories of the Little Folk - with special reference to their habit of living in long barrows> We were fascinated by the stories of men who fell in love with fairy maids, and were whisked away to an alternate dimension, where time flew by compared to time in the human world, and men who were young when they disappeared were old when they returned, just a few days later - or, indeed, vice versa.

A longish diversion into the whole concept of "changelings" then gave way to a reflection on the nature of Tolkien's immortal warriors and songsters, the Elder Folk;

All of which was wonderful and informative, but confusing. I thought Glapthorn had been meant to give us an uplifting discourse on the power of the human will; the way trust in our own abilities will enable us to achieve great things.

Except, it turns out, when trying to produce posters for a series of talks. Suddenly it all makes sense. I never could cope with print margins.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Grasping for The Numinous in the Celtic Twilight

Ah, the wonders of a properly authentic invented ethnic religio-cultural ethos! Or, to put it another way, we had the wonders of our Celtic Twilight Service tonight.

Now that the Scots have accepted their fate as the place British oil comes from, we thought we would honour them in traditional Celtic liturgy. So we brought together the traditions of Iona, Lindisfarne and Kildare. Which is to say, the Beaker Quire wore Arran Sweaters and ginger beards while people threw seaweed at them.

As ever, it leaves me thinking. Why do we always act as though some other tradition is the more authentic? Why did people fly to Toronto Airport for a revival, when the same Holy Spirit is in Bedford? Why do even people from Cornwall and Wales have "Celtic" worship that is nothing like what they have inherited? Or is it only the English that assume other cultures are more earthy, and yet simultaneously more heavenly, than  their own?

Is it that we so assume we are the norm, that we cannot find spiritual depth in our own English - reaching, at the least, to our own 16th Century, at worse to worship in the Venusian Style or Space-Hopper services or whatever? Why do we as believers reach for more unusual forms of worship for ourselves, while dumbing-down when we are trying to reach people whom we refer to - but who normally don't self-identify - as "seekers"?

And looking over towards the goings-on at Blackfen I am intrigued. I guess to a cradle Catholic of that tradition, the Mass in Latin must seem like mother's milk - maybe one of them can let me know? While to me, hearing the Berlioz Requiem for the first time, or even Faure's for the umpteenth - a language whose meaning I can kind of figure out, but which is fundamentally stil foreign - it is the strangeness  that brings me closer to our wild and unfathomable God. A strangeness that a book of poor cod-Celtic liturgy or the sound of an out-of-tune Pan Pipe can conjure up  - whereas a 19th Century hymn, full of Victorian confidence and self-belief even as the bottom fell out of their spiritual world, struggles to inspire. And a 1960s hymn about the God of atoms, steel and non-stick frying pans never could.

I don't know what I'm saying here, really. Maybe that God is found in the ordinary things, and the strange, deep things. But if you try to find God in the reinvented, the never-was, the re-envisaged, then when you look into the Celtic cauldron of mystery you have put in the middle of the Moot House, you just find yourself looking out. With a bit of tartan round your neck. And seaweed in your hair.

A Reckless Career Move

Mark Reckless's defection from the Tories to UKIP isn't the first time he's let people down in pursuit of his own career goals.

It was in the late 70s that he was lined up for a 60s revival tour of Butlins holiday camps, but pulled out to further his political career. He really let the other people on the tour down. Marty Wilde was wild. And as for Billy Fury....

Why Maths is Handy to be a Chemist

Today's attack on my inner pedant comes from the BBC's Science Pages.

Apparently Bromine is the least-famous of the four halogen elements. I beg to differ.

The evidence from this article is that Astatine is the least famous of the four halogens.

What with it being the fifth one.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Doing a Miliband in the Great Sermon Handicap

Ed Miliband's made the news by forgetting entire chunks of his Labour Conference speech while attempting to deliver the whole thing from memory, like David Cameron does. What a lesson this is to people who went to Corpus, that they shouldn't take on people from the old 'Nose at brainwork. Not a hope. Except at University Challenge, and that's mostly about pressing the buzzer first. Brasenose undergraduates would never be quick on the buzzer, being notoriously laid-back and, in David Cameron's case, probably having a butler to do that for him.

Quite apart from making cheap college-based digs, though, it's quite worrying. I mean, what happens if Ed Miliband, against all reason, gets elected, and his memory plays him up on a trip to negotiate with the President in Iran? I can imagine him on the plane back. "Forgot something. Oh yeah, ISIS. And - what was that other thing? Nuclear arms. Duh. I knew there was a reason I went."

Worse still, it strikes me that ISIS could easily sound to Ed like one of the unions that backed his original election as Labour Leader. Him calling them round to No 10 to discuss how they think he should shape his schools policy - thinking it was the NUS - well, it doesn't bear thinking about, does it?

But at least we have a new technical term for what used to be called a "Heppenstall", where a vital part of a public discourse is left out of the argument. Rev "Heppenstall", of course (for I speak to cultured people) being the man who had longer odds than he deserved in the Great Sermon Handicap of Jeeves and Wooster fame. The good Rev dropped a number of pages out of his sermon, but preached on regardless.

Now we can instead call the feat of remembering, just too late, that you've missed out a chunk of your valued and well-prepared spiel a "Miliband".

I remember well my own Miliband Moment. The Beaker Folk had been demanding that, instead of preaching about hazelnuts and how nice things are, I preach a sermon in the style of St Stephen - a popular feature of our sermons is to preach in the style of various famous people. I remember that time Hnaef preached a sermon in the manner of George Carey. Just an hour of shouting "we'd be more popular if I were in charge!"

Anyway, the sermon was a beauty - covering the whole history of salvation. But, like Miliband E, I thought I'd do it all sans texte,  as it were. Skipped a few bits that should have been put in. The Resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit, to be precise.

So my sermon consisted of a summary of how, after falling from our first innocence, human beings crucified the only good member of our race that ever lived, his friends wandered around the Mediterranean for no obvious reason, and the world will one day dissolve in fire.

Quite an impact. to be fair. The entire congregation joined the "Quivering Brethren". From now on I ensure my sermons are projected onto the back wall of the Moot House. "Ed" might want to consider it next year. If he's still leader.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Litany For People With "Creative" English

Hymn: Theirs a place where the Street's Shine

Archdruid: Woe are us for we are people of unclean lips'.

All: Our apostrophe's are upon us.

Archdruid: We have done what we ought not to of done.

All: We have failed to do what we ought to of done.

Archdruid: We have used prepositions to end sentences with.

All: Though we dare to definitely claim that that isn't a real grammatical error. And we've defiantly used the right words though, ironically, not necessarily in the right order.

Archdruid: People of better grammar have pointed they're fingers at us.

All: "Their they are", they cry. "There English is atrocious."

Archdruid: And so we have less people who respect us.

All: They're not never going to be are friends.

Archdruid: ai wouldn't behave like that if I was them.  We think they should get off of those hobby horses.

All: And, irregardless of prejudice, hopefully they'll come to love us.

Archdruid: Or, fortuitously, decide their as bad as we are.

All: And decide that's a nuff condemnation.

Archdruid: For if God won't never condemn us, why shouldn't they? Gods love is unlimitedless.

All: Its unboundedlessness is infinite.

Hymn: Will You're Anchor Hold?

Archdruid: Go in Piece.

All: This must of ended.

Nativity of Henry Blofeld

Archdruid: My dear old things!

All: My dear old thing!

Litany of Crickety Happiness

Archdruid: The red bus winds past the gasometer.

All: A pigeon flutters at mid-on.

Archdruid: A bright orange plane whose company we are not allowed to mention...

All: Flits towards the west

Archdruid: And there's another one.

All: And another one.

Archdruid: Puffy clouds bubble up over Pimlico

All: And there's someone dressed as a womble!

Archdruid: Ali Cook, like some Greek tragic actor

All: Ponders the inequities of fate.

Archdruid: His shadow, maybe like his best days,

All: Behind him.

Archdruid: And the voice of Geoffrey is heard in the land.

All: I think I'll have some cake.

Archdruid: Does anybody know what the score is?

All: Oh I say!

Archdruid: Wasn't that Jonners?

All: Our grannies could have written a better liturgy with a stick of rhubarb.


Archdruid: and so we salute the risen sun, giver of light and burn.

All: it's a bit cold, in it?

Archdruid: The year is poised like a bird on a telephone wire, neither day nor night has sway.

All: it's really rather parky.  Can't we do this in the Moot House?

Archdruid: As the prophet wrote, "the summer is over and we are not yet saved."

All: Given your sermons that's not surprising. Can we go in the warm now, please, Eileen?

Archdruid: The emblazoned leaves fall from the trees.

All: That's ash die-back. We told you - you should have consulted Defra at the time.

Archdruid: Dying! Dying! The year is dying!

All: That's more like it. Bit of serious melodrama. Much better for the whole gloomy atmosphere.

Archdruid: And now, Hnaef will once again attempt his Equinoctial a Feat of Balance on the tightrope above the Duck Pond, after which we will return to the Great House for baked apples.

All: Baked apples! Why didn't you say?

All may immediately leave for the Great House, to discover there's proper custard as well.

Hnaef: Hello? Is there anybody there? I daren't look down. Can anybody help me?

Monday 22 September 2014

Church Maintenance With Tony Blair

Thanks to Tony Blair for taking time out of his busy life as a jet-setting after-dinner speaker, bringer of peace and walker on water to answer questions in this special edition of "Church Maintenance".

This church is attempting to hide its identity so it can invade Kensington
Dear Tony

We have a compost heap at the bottom of the churchyard, where we put grass clippings and dead flowers from the graves. When we came to empty it out, we found a number of newts seem to be using it as a base. What do you advise we do?

Yours newtily

'Newt' Gingerish

Dear Newt 

Love the name! There are different types of newts, and they have different conservation statuses. So you need  to be careful. 

If they're palmate newts, they're a protected species.  It's against the law to  destroy them. So you'll need a really imaginative dossier to explain why you're doing it. If they're crested newts, I'd just send in the drones to take them out. We have strong evidence that crested newts are in alliance with Al Qaeda. And if they're not, they will be after I've sent in Special Forces.



Dear Tony

Last year we thought we would grow a wildflower patch in the graveyard. It was lovely as the poppies and cornflowers came through! This year, however, we seem to have an outbreak of teasels. What do you suggest?


Poppy Flowers

Dear Poppy - if that is your real name.

I have reason to suspect that you are working for a foreign power that I shall not mention. I have had your phone hacked, and you have repeatedly mentioned to your friend "Doris" (another pseudonym, I expect) that you have been working hard at establishing the "plants".

The case could not be more clear. By the powers vested in me as the Supreme Peace-Bringer of the Universe, I am putting you under house arrest. Mr Campbell will be round by the time you are reading this. I know. He's watching.



Dear Tony

Bats in the belfry! There are droppings on the altar coverings and some of the flower ladies are terrified to go into the church after it gets dark. Any hints?


Mary Quite-Contrary

Dear Mary

Again, we are in an area where the law takes a very dim view of the extermination of these obviously malicious creatures. But if you do nothing, you will only be encouraging them to invade Lebanon. So I suggest simply blowing them up, and denying you did anything wrong afterwards. It always works for me!



Dear Tony

We have a quite hideous tapestry given to us in memory of someone's Auntie 20 years ago. But I have read if we simply sell it, or even throw it away without a faculty, we could be in break of Church Law. The diocese says we have to keep it because it is of intrinsic worth and in keeping with its setting. What do you suggest?

Yours worriedly

Art Lover

Dear Art

Worry no more! If you can't get something passed straight away, why not try just using the Parliament Act to subvert democracy? And if that fails, make up some stuff about it secretly recruiting for ISIS and blow it up. They'll probably make you a peace envoy - but not in the Middle East! You after my job?!



Dear Tony

I've checked the newts in the compost to see what type they are, and there's a couple of slow worms as well. Should I approach this more carefully?


'Newt' Gingerish

Dear 'Newt'

More carefully? What are you on? Can't you see that these evil lizards are already forming alliances, ready to march on the Churchyard? There's not a moment to lose. I'm sending in a crack squadron of toads.

Which reminds me. Anybody seen Lord Prescott?



Dear Tony

How would you approach woodworm in pitch-pine pews?


Sven "Norwegian" Wood

Dear Sven

With a flame-thrower.



Dear Tony

Our vicar loves incense. But all the hangings and robes smell of it for days afterwards. What do you suggest?


Chesney Cough

Dear Chesney

In your situation, I'd introduce a smoking ban. I did, and it worked.  Now nobody goes to the pub anymore! Horrible places, full of common people, they were.



Dear Tony

One of the light bulbs has gone in the chancel. It's about 40 feet above an uneven freestone floor. In these elf' 'n' safety days, how would you deal with it?


"Church Warden"

Dear Church Warden

Should you ignore me and send someone up to deal with it using only a ladder, or even inadequate scaffolding, let me know. Cherie will be only too glad to sue the cassock off you, the Vicar and the entire PCC.

If you take my advice, though, at a range of 40 feet you can't beat a nice shotgun. Should remove the problem completely - no light fitting left to worry about! And if you're lucky, you might take out a few bats.



Dear Tony

In this centenary year, do you have any suggestions on how we could clean up our 1914-18 war memorial?


"Slugger" Tomlinson

Dear Slugger

If only people paid more attention to me, you wouldn't need to worry about that grubby old war memorial.

You could have a nice shiny new one.



They are the 44.7

I was a little baffled by the #weare45 hashtag that has lately been popular. I gradually realised that it was something to do with Scottish independence.

I was mildly in favour of Scottish independence - being a strong supporter of independence for Mid Anglia myself - a nation that, like the Hwicce, was cruelly colonised by the Mercians in the Dark Ages. But I didn't twig that the hashtag was to do with this, as after all the "Yes" vote was 44.7%. I guess it's been rounded up to save characters, and also because decimal points don't work in hashtags.

But, as I say, I didn't make that connection for a while. When I realised that it was to do with Scotland, I naturally thought it was an allusion to the '45 rebellion of Charles Stuart.

A popular movement that celebrated its successes too early, over-reached itself and ending up in failure. The leader of the movement, of course, gave up after the defeat and never took an active part in the life of Scotland again.

I'm not sure that's a good image to conjure, that's all.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Praise him on the Loud Homophone

Head absolutely buzzing after this evening's meditative participatory worship, it was. And not in a good way.

I told everybody this morning that we would all be taking part in an exploration of the use of symbols in worship.

Should have printed the notices instead, shouldn't I? Would have made it clearer. And saved me this massive headache.

And Marston Moretaine had to go to extremes, didn't he. It's not just that he brought a gong along - not even a cymbal. It's the fact he went to all the trouble of oiling up to bash it. Songs of Praise this was not.

Gongman from VCI Classic Films

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

The story of the call of Matthew, and dinner with the tax collectors. One of those touch points where Jesus's direction towards the cross is just kind of nudged. A minor row with the religious powers over who's allowed to come to dinner. Which of the three parties - the tax collectors, the Pharisees, Jesus - do you feel sympathy for here?

It is entirely reasonable, it seems to me, that the Pharisees object to Jesus eating with tax collectors.

The tax collector was a part of the structure of Roman world. And the Romans may have given the Jews the aqueduct, sanitation, decent roads and so on. But they were also one of the nastiest races ever to walk this earth. Those who see their law codes and shiny ancient buildings may admire them. But in their vicious oppression of those that opposed them - mass executions, crucifixion, the rape of female captives (and male ones) they make ISIS look like amateurs.

The creation of the roads, the buildings, the upkeep of the Legions that kept the natives down - these all came at a price. The Romans taxed people for the infrastructure that kept them under control. Didn't tax them as heavily as the United Kingdom is taxed, of course. But then they didn't provide a National Health Service, social security or subsidised train travel.

So Matthew as a tax collector was a part of the structure of oppression set up by the Romans. He was a cog in the Inperial machine. When John the Baptist is talking to tax collectors, he tells them - dont collect more than you should. Which presumably means the tax collectors were able to adjust their operating margins for their own good - add on a service charge, as somebody might say today.

We don't know whether Matthew was putting a premium on what he was supposed to be collecting. But he was part of that system, from Syria to France, of extracting money from people to pay for their own suppression. It was a rotten system, if you were a Jew or a Gaul. Though it was quite nice for the Emperor.

If Matthew follows Jesus, what does it mean? The loss of his job? The loss of his family's income? We don't know anything much about his personal life. Maybe he couldn't marry because which nice Jewish girl would marry a tax collector? Maybe he was young, but building himself up in the business. Making a solid start in the extortion trade, so he could settle down later. Maybe this was the only job he could get, and it was the only way he could keep his head above water.

Jesus calls him, and he follows. And there's another apostle, ready to be trained, to be sent out. When he goes to sit and have dinner with Jesus, he's not even the only tax-collector there. There are so many of them the Pharisees have a right moan. What is it about Jesus that he attracts this riff raft?

"I desire mercy," says Jesus, "not sacrifice". The sacrifice could just be done. Just like coming to church on a Sunday morning. It's a ritual. It costs money sure - a bull or lamb was an expensive item then, as they are now. But as part of the Jewish society, it's just a thing. You offer, you're better with God. To be fair to the Pharisees they were much better than that. They really wanted to be holy. They worked hard to keeping themselves free of sin. They wanted God to love them - and to love them for being good. I've got a lot of time for them, really.

But the tax collectors were part of the other a Establishment. The one that kept the Pharisees, and all the other Jews, well down at heel. The one that could, if it fancied the fight, take the images of its gods into Jerusalem. The one which would one day come down on Judea like a wolf on the fold. What's Jesus doing with them?

"I desire mercy," says Jesus, "not sacrifice". They're establishment stooges, these tax collectors. They're traitors to their people. Some of them are crooks. But Jesus is going to love them.  Following Jesus doesn't stop us identifying sin - especially this kind of structural sin, where a society is based on it, dependent on it. It was easier for the Pharisees to identify this kind of sin than it would be for us, sometimes, I suspect. Because - for all the pantomime villain reputation we give them - the Pharisees were the victims too, here. But we, where our cheap clothes and air-freighted food and our jobs or our pension funds can depend on oppression - we have to look a bit more carefully, but still call it out.

But then, like Jesus, we have to remember that those we have identified, the ones that run the unjust systems in our world - they're our neighbours too.

It was those two clashing systems - the Roman Empire and the religious establishment - that came together to crucify Jesus. And on the Cross, he prayed that the ones who did it to them should be forgiven.

Maybe a message we can draw from the Gospel of Matthew is simply this. That there's no human system that we should not be brave enough to judge. And no human being that is no precious enough for God to save.

Friday 19 September 2014

A-Z Guide to Church of England Terminology

The Church of England can be hard to understand. Even for those in it. Especially if they've been on the gin.

But, thanks to my 6 months' experience in that august institution, I can help you.  Here you go..... 

Acolyte - from the Greek for "Minion with a candle".

Alpha Course - Induction into a form of Christianity that at some points shares some ideas with Anglicanism.

Anglican Use (of Liturgy) - What the Bishop don't know can't hurt him or, soon, her.

Archbishop - on the "pyramid of needs', the one who meets the need to blame someone.

Archdeacon - (1) Curate who behaves in a roguish way (2) Part-time rental agent (3) Bishop's enforcer.

Benefice - from the Latin for "it's for your own good".

Book of Common Prayer - despite what you may have heard, almost completely comprehensible and utterly beautiful.

"Called to be one" - an event that demonstrated how many phone boxes you could fit the entire Ordinariate into.

Chancel - A thing that could hypothetically be improved. As in "Are you going to do that reordering of the whole building, Father?" "Chancel be a fine thing'.

Churchwarden - Ninja usher.

Curate: Technically "Assistant Curate". One who helps cure souls while learning on the job. What souls need curing of has always been a matter of theological debate.

Deacon - Of the entire cast of "Reservoir Deacons", Tarantino's misjudged sequel,  only Revd Blue is remembered.

Deanery Synod - Gathering of people for whom PCC can't come round often enough.

Diocesan Synod - For people with absolutely no social life at all.

Evangelical - Not to be confused with Evangelism

Evangelism - Jumble sales, fêtes and coffee mornings, just as St Paul recommended.

Fête - a thing that is worse than death. An attempt to raise money for the Church by buying your own jam.

General Synod - A place where the people who have honed their decision-making skills at PCC get together to make decisions. When they fail, it's the bishops' fault.

Gradual Hymn - the one before the Gospel. So called because the altar party sneak gradually down the aisle, like weeping angels.

Harvest Festival - Raising money for the Church by buying your own beetroot.

House of Bishops - Reality TV show in which George Carey is locked in a house. There are no cameras.

HTB - Holy Terrain Bike - a form of transport that can operate across parish boundaries.

Incumbent - one who incumbs. Or, possibly, is incumbed. Someone of godlike and immense power and magnetic personality before they start their job, and after they leave, but not while they are actually doing their job.

Joshua (Book of) - a thing that has to be rationalised away or, better, never mentioned.
Nobody every worked out what happened to Fr Barnet after he forced the PCC to make that decision.

Kingdom of God - can be found in the cracks, cranks and children.

Local Licensed Minister/ Local Lay Minister / Lay Reader - a class of people who spend their time writing minutes and notices because the Vicar's doing the real work. Spend their days seething with frustration and their nights dreaming of when the Vacancy comes. Or they can arrange it.

Methodist - Half the average rural congregation.

Mothers' Union - Not necessarily mothers. Not necessarily united.

Nave - The bit of the Church building where the knaves sit.

"O" Antiphon - The prequel to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Organ - Trendy modern musical instrument that replaced the traditional music groups.

Parish - Arbitrary parcel of land in which some of a Church community may actually live.

Parish boundary - Line drawn around a parish, across which no other C of E church may proselytise, baptise or evangelise. Unless it does so regardless.

Parish Share - Nominal amount of money that is bigger than anyone can imagine.

Parochial Church Council (PCC)- small body of people who get together for three hours every couple of months, to frustrate the vicar's latest plans, remember what life was like in previous centuries, and - most importantly - make no decisions.

Quire - Better spelling of "Choir".

Rector - Not to be confused with "Vicar".

Rowan - Saint-like bard of legend, who united the Church in its inability to know what he was on about.

Rural Dean - Often lives in a town. Rarely called Dean. An imposter. If you ever meet a Rural Dean called Dean in a village, congratulate him on his integrity.

SSM - Self-supporting Minister or Same-sex Marriage. The Church doesn't understand either very well, thinks neither is as good as the real thing,  but only actually bans one. And definitely doesn't bann one.

Suffragan Bishop - Like being the Deputy Prime Minister.  You know you won't get the Big Job.

Supreme Governor - what the monarch is. Not the "head" of the Church. That's somebody else.

TI - Terrifying Instructor - the vicar in a new curate's parish.

Unicorn - Found, with a lion, on many church walls. So you know who's really in charge.

Vicar - not to be confused with "Rector".

Women's Institute - not to be confused with Mother's Union. No. Stop confusing them, now.

X - Crosses are often used to decorate churches. Carrying them is much scarier.

Y - chromosome - no longer obligatory in pulpits or - soon - bishop's thrones.

Zzzzzz - Noise made when a PCC meeting reaches its fourth hour.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Thought for the Day

If all the members of Westboro Baptist Church were lined up end to end, they would almost certainly reckon it was some kind of sin.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Going Round in Pedantic Circles

It's well known among pedants that spiral staircases aren't spirals at all, but helices. A spiral staircase, apart from not needing any stairs, would not take you through the "y" dimension, without which a staircase is pointless. You'd just go round in ever-decreasing circles, on a spiral staircase. In other words, and at the risk of labouring, straining or overstating the point, spiral staircases are badly named. And helical staircases, even when correctly designated, are a bit common.

That's why the new Moot House has a double-helix staircase.

You could say innovative architecture is in our DNA. Or possibly vice-versa.

The State of Religion

I was listening to Radio 5 this morning, as I tend to do if I want to hear the news but don't think I can stand the endless lefty nagging of the Today programme. I mean, honestly. It's like someone has given my old geography teacher a platform from which to berate the nation.

Anyway, Nicky Campbell was in the Outer Shetlands, or the Mull of Oban or somewhere, talking Scottish independence. And they interviewed a Presbyterian minister who was opposed to it. Not Presbyterianism, you understand. Independence. And his reason for voting "no" was this. That the United Kingdom is, by law, a Protestant country, and the Queen is bound to uphold the Protestant religion.

And I have to say, that gave me pause for thought. You know, I take Church of England schools for granted on the grounds that, on average; they're better. Which would obviously be true. If you want to learn, and to progress in life, of course you'll do better if the principles on which the school is based depend on a consistent Creator who has a good plan for you.

And I know that the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church of England. But it has never occurred to me that actually meant anything. I mean, in practice I'd always assumed that the Royal Family was there to give soap-opera-style entertainment to people who were fed up with the moaning on Eastenders. The thought that one of their duties might be to uphold the Protestant religion against the Catholic or Beaker..... well, I mean, what?

Thing is, now I think about it, there are very few cases I can think of, of State religions being a good idea. The memory of Cardinal Fang and his comfy chair hovers in my mind, the remembrance that the Catholic martyrs of England were condemned for treason, not heresy, and the fact that even Muslims would rather seek asylum in Western Europe than in Saudi Arabia or Iran. Even Buddhism has a bad track record when, as has happened in Sri Lanka, it has lined up with the powerful.  On the whole, they strike me as a bad idea, State religions. Even the Presbyterian minister would object, I reckon, if the Queen and Government,  to uphold the Protestant religion, introduced compulsory snake-handling in RE. Or even PE - very vigorous, some of them snakes.

And yes. On the whole the capacity of the Church of England to cause trouble,  as the State religion of England is limited these days by its ability to accept difference or - to put it another way - not believe in much. But I can't help feeling that's a lucky bug, rather than a feature of the system.

And that's because, regardless of the effects on the State, a tie-up will always have a bad effect on the religion. Jesus never gave instructions on an Erastian accommodation; Muhammed lived in a tribal environment, not a modern state. Anyone using the State's concepts of rule and power will always corrupt a religion.

So my suggestion is this. Whatever comes out of the shambles that is the Scottish independence referendum, let's not bind anyone's hands to uphold any religion. Let's make it a requirement instead for the State to be challenged by religion. Let politicians be forced to  hear Anglicans demand that they're rational and reasonable; Muslims expect them to recognise that they're only human; Jews demand they care for the oppressed and the foreigner; Catholics expect them to respect life; Quakers tell them to care for peace and equality; Methodists require that they care for the poor;  Hindus expect them to respect diversity; pagans tell them to plant more trees and care for the Earth; atheists insist that the people they rule (and are supposed to serve), and the ones they send to fight wars, only have one life: so the Government better not screw those lives up.

I'd just like it if the Prime Minister - in person, not some stooge like Nick Clegg - got it in the neck from the above group, every week. We can still have Faith schools - they work, after all - but every week the PM can be reminded that politicians are only servants, not masters. Only human beings, not Powers beyond question. And the Royal Family can get on with entertaining us, like they're supposed to.

Monday 15 September 2014

If Chemical Elements were Named After Pop Acts and Songs

Watching Dr Who - Then and Now


Start watching

Hide behind sofa

At end, wonder what it was about as you missed so much.


Start watching

Write scathingly witty criticism on Twitter

At end, wonder what it was about as you missed so much.

Saturday 13 September 2014

An Embarrassing Love

"No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:13-17)
We like a rational faith, we do. A sensible, well-balanced, unembarrassing faith.

Not too much getting carried away. I remember seeing mourners at a funeral - somewhere in the Middle East - when I was just a child. And they were practically raving with grief - the approved way of mourning in that country, I daresay. And I was aghast. Did these people have no discipline? Years later, I heard Victoria Wood's words on the matter.
"If a man dies in India, the woman flings herself on the funeral pyre. If a man dies in England, the woman goes into the kitchen and says: '72 baps, Connie. You slice, I'll spread."
That's how we like our faith. Calm, considered, safe, well behaved. There's a stained glass that has always stayed with me. It's in Church Brampton, on the Spencer estate, near Northampton.  Apologies for the poor quality photo. You know what it's like, photographing stained glass.

It's not the Mother of God or St John who take my eye in this little scene. They're both a bit kind of passive - English. Jesus himself is quite out of it - serenely looking up at the heavenly bliss that is to come. But it's Mary Magdalene. Slumped at the foot of the cross, holding onto it - distraught. I think the artist has taken the opportunity given by Mary Mag - according to the story (but not the Bible) the good-time girl - the woman with a past - the woman who, in her society - in the society in which the artist lived - wasn't quite respectable  - to give reign to the emotions that are actually there.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." 

I think the love God is showing here is not the well-balanced, considered love that would be displayed by a well-behaved English person. It's not the serenity of an otherworldly Jesus, the dispassionate view of a churchgoer who wants their quiet hour with God before returning to the real, ordered, well-behaved world. The love God shows here is more like the love of Mary Mag in the window. A desperate love. A love that doesn't keep a stiff upper lip. A love that doesn't bargain. A love that flings itself at a cross - because in a way we can't understand, God's love is expressed there.

"that everyone who believes in him...." 

There's no distinction. Rich, poor, slave, free, black white - if you believe in him, you may have eternal life. That includes you. If you think your life is such that no respectable God would have you - there's good news. This isn't a respectable God. This is a God who loves the world so much that he sends his own son. There's no respectable distinction between the world that God loved so much, and God himself. In fact, he destroys the distinction. He comes steaming into the world, breathing and sweating and - ultimately - bleeding, and he breaks down the barrier between Creator and Created. So who are we to put up our own barriers - between God and ourselves, or between God and anybody else?

" God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world..." 

Which we all might want him to do sometimes. I can think of a few hundred parts of the world I'd quite like God to condemn. Even if his Son didn't condemn it last time, perhaps he can this. There's the new series of Dr Who, for starters. And all sorts of people. And all sorts of things. What's God like, not condemning? Yet that's God's nature. I'm no universalist. I believe quite firmly that it's possible for people to go to Hell - but I do believe that God would go to the ends of the earth to stop that happening. In fact, I believe that God quite literally went to the end of the earth to call back anyone he could. Those events on the afternoon of Good Friday - the stones cracking, the dead coming back to life, the temple veil ripped in two - when St Matthew described Good Friday like that, he's telling us that the Crucifixion is the start of the end of the world. This is what happens, when the world ends. And in the middle of that - starting it, with us to the end of it - there is God, on a cross, pouring out his love, like his blood, in a very embarrassing, demeaning, humiliating way.

What's God doing there? It's not where God is supposed to be. But if God dies as a criminal on a cross - who's he going to condemn?

"but in order that the world might be saved through him." 

The world might be saved. Not you, or me. Or not just you or me. But the world. This world in which we live. The grubby place where we scrabble for life. The heavens declare the glory of the Lord, the psalms tell us. Yet the place where the world was saved was not some place of light and wonder, the majesty of a king in his glory decreeing the way things should be.

No, the place where the world was saved was a place of darkness, pain and death. It was a lonely cross where the King of our world was raised up to the darkening sky. Where, thirsty, scared and alone, the One who breathed the world into being was forced from it.

And as the King breathed out his spirit, the world mourned - the sky went dark and the stones shook. And shortly afterwards the demons howled, as they knew that though their victory was quick, their defeat would last forever.

I don't know much about God's love, really. It's vast and beyond me. But I know it's huge, I know it's free, I know it's unlimited, and I know it's embarrassing. It starts with the love of a holy God, and ends with the son of a conquered race dying a slave's death. But if God will go there, God will go anywhere - anywhere for me, anywhere for you, anywhere for the world that God created.

God so loved the world.... that he would do anything for it. Anything at all. Let's not judge it for him.

Friday 12 September 2014

The New Moot House is Opened

A lovely sunrise service today as we celebrated the opening and blessing of our new Moot House. The Liturgy was much as follows:

Outriders, pebble-bearers, acolytes and the Holder of the Sacred Tea Light approach the Old Moot House, followed by Druids, Sages, Prophet-bards and Archdruid.
 The Archdruid lights the Sacred Tea Light from the Eternal Flame.
Song: "Let the flame burn brighter"
The procession processes in processional manner down the Processional Way from Old to New Moot House. The Archdruid may remark that this was much what must have happened from Durrington Walls to Stonehenge.  But without the electronic keyboard, powered by a car battery, on a shopping trolley.
The Beaket Folk enter the new Moot House to discover the glorious wonders of the interior - till now kept hidden from mortal eyes (with the exception of the decorators.) The Beaker Folk gasp as they see the mural of Stonehenge from within the circle, painted around the walls - with stars, moons and suns rising, rotating and setting in their times in electronic wonder.
The Archdruid lights the new Eternal Flame - which, through the power of applied chemistry and the appropriate salts being inserted into the piping, will burn with the appropriate liturgical colour.
The Beaker band get too close to the eternal flame, igniting a bhodran and the wood blocks, and 10 feet of Liturgical Dancing Ribbon. 
Song: "Light up the Quire"
At last we have our new, comfy Moot House with authentic Stonehenge theme, surrounded by its four long barrows in which we will inter the ashes of deceased Beaker Folk. It's the perfect Beaker worship environment. So much better thsn the old Moot House, with its clutter of unwanted donations and total lack of any liturgical space, since Flodwym bequeathed us that life-sized Liturgical Elephant. It's like a museum, that is.

I nipped back to switch off the gas on the Eternal Flame, to find half a dozen Beaker Folk in there, just sat there quietly. I asked them what they were up to. They told me they actually prefer the old one  - it's full of memories and it's been lived in.

So I locked them in. Before I told them that the Liturgical Elephant is said to wander from time to time. I hope they're enjoying the ambience now.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Livin' in a Vicar's Paradise

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
The treasurer's report says there's nothin' left
But I've been preachin' and prayin' so long
That even the Archdeacon thinks my mind is gone
Of course it crossed my mind that I don't deserve it
Treated like a normal person, you know that's unheard of
You betta watch how ya talkin' and where ya walkin'
Or you and your chapter might be eatin' cake
I really hate tea but I gotta accept it
As I drink I know it's pushin' me to the brink
Fool, I'm the kinda clergy ordinands wanna be like
On my knees in the night sayin' prayers by a tea light

Keep spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise
Been spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise
We keep spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise
We keep spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise

Look at the situation, they got me facing
I can't live a normal life, I was raised to be polite
So I gotta be down with the P.C.C.
Too much Bible readin', got me chasing dreams
I'm an educated fool needing money for the tower
Got a giant thermometer, lack charismatic power
I'm a rural vicar, feeling quite holy
When I face English Heritage, makes me lowly
Fool, death ain't nothing but a legacy chance
I'm living life fearing a liturgical dance
I'm fifty-three now, when I'm fifty-four
Not much has changed, except the woodworm in the church door.

Tell me why are we
So blind to see
That the ones drinking tea
Are you and me

Been spending most our lives
Living in a vicca's paradise
Been spending most our lives
Living i a vicca's paradise
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a vicca's paradise
We keep spending most our lives
Living in a vicca's paradise

Asking for money, judging Harvest cauliflower
Minute after minute, hour after hour
6 folk in church, but half of them ain't listenin'
They're looking at the wall, where the brasses are glistenin'
They say I gotta preach
They say I gotta teach 'em
If I can't understand it, how can I reach 'em?
I guess I can't
I guess I won't
I guess I've got 8 Parish Councils
That's why I know my life is going round in circles.....

Been spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise
Been spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise
We keep spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise
We keep spending most our lives
Livin' in a vicca's paradise

Tell me why are we
So blind to see
That the ones drinking tea
Are you and me
Tell me why are we
So blind to see
That the ones drinking tea
Are you and me?

To the People of Scotland - A Reasoned Appeal

Dear people of Scotland. You may think that breaking up is hard to do - but don't go breaking our heart. If leaving us is easy, be sure that coming back must be harder. To help you in making your decision, below you can what you can expect in future from the continuing United Kingdom, or from recklessly throwing away security and going for independence.

I'm sure you will know what to do.

If you leave us now
If you stay another day

  • The new Scottish currency (the groat) will fall like a stone.
  • Bankers flood south to London, taking their subsidies with them
  • Every light entertainment programme will feature sword dancing and people shouting "hoots!"
  • Haggis blight
  • Scotland-wide batter shortage
  • The oil will run out.
  • Geordies wandering up and down the border, waving bundles of fivers
  • We will send Nick Clegg to see you every week.
  • Investigation of what is worn under the kilt at the new border crossings
  • Booze cruise supermarkets in Carlisle and Berwick, undermining the Scottish exchequer
  • Bubonic plague in the Gorbals (very nasty) 
  • Repatriation of George Galloway
  • Crazed bagpipers on every corner
  • It will rain in Glasgow all the time

  • Free piggy-backs to school for all  children, provided by friendly Cockneys.
  • Subsidised Famous Grouse
  • Removal of export duties on Irn Bru
  • Free chip shops selling state-provided deep-fried pizza and Milky Ways
  • 3rd January as an extra New Years' Holiday
  • We will admit Andy Murray is actually Scottish
  • Prince Charles will never wear a kilt again
  • Norman put back into the Great British Bake off
  • Berwick-on-Tweed returned to where it should always have been
  • "Braveheart" compulsory film in every English school
  • Tourists flock to "Sunny Glasgae" after it is declared the compulsory holiday destination for all English people
  • Corby to be declared a Celtic enclave
  • A new series of Taggart
  • A never-ending oil bonanza
  • Please, please don't go. Don't go. Don't go away. Please don't go. We're begging you to stay...

The future of television in an independent Scotland

Who's Funeral

The cyber-pall-bearers carry the Tardis on its side to the middle of the Moot Crematorium.

Archdruid: We loved the one-liners

All: And Rose Tyler

Archdruid: And Eccleston was fun and frantic

All: And Tennant was manic.

Archdruid: And the young one - he was OK.

All: Couldn't keep his hands off the assistants.

Archdruid: But why does everybody complain about the lesbian lizard....

All: ...and ignore the whole River Song cross-species thing? At least Silurians are terrestrial.

Hymn: "Unchained Melody", including the revised line:
"Wibbley-wobbly timey-wimey goes slowly"

Archdruid: But it just got too silly.

All: Jumped the robotic mega-shark from Victorian London.

Archdruid: Victorian London?

All: Yeah. Everything happens in Victorian London. Exploding dinosaurs, robotic men - you name it.

Archdruid: Victorian values, eh?

All: Dreadfully oppressive.

The Dalek guard of honour surround the Tardis.

Dalek Caan: We bury you with the full honours of the Cult of Skaro.

Dalek Sec: Exterminate!

Dakek Caan: Too late for that. We will eliminate the remains of the Doc-tor, and then we will 
exterminate the Beaker Folk.

Dalek army from the recreated yet unexplained Crucible: Exterminate the Beaker Folk!

Beaker Folk: oo-er. The Express warned us about the Supermoon!

Quarks, Soltarans and telepathic spiders bring flowers, jelly babies, scarves and silly jackets in tribute.


Archdruid: Well, cheers Doctor. It's been nice to have you back but you're just not very good anymore, are you? I mean - this current series is more forced than Granny Boycott's rhubarb.
Nothing's scary enough. Nothing is funny enough. Describing the look of desperation on Gemma Coleman's face is.... what's the word.... imp-something. On the tip of my tongue.
You've had a good several lives, but let's face it, enough's enough.  Trenzalore awaits just as soon as I've pressed this button.....

The Rift in Time appears in the wall. The previous 73 doctors are waving through the gap.

Archdruid: Rats. I always worry about pressing the wrong button. That was supposed to close the curtain.

The Doctor (leaping from the Tardis): It worked!  By reversing the neutron flow and defragging the large hadrons, I dissembled the dark worf and reconstituted my own time line!

Archdruid: Does that actually mean anything?

The Doctor: Of course not. Now come, Clara.

Archdruid: Are you saving the seventeenth aquarantine planet of the Sjisl System?

The Doctor: ***** am I. I'm off to stand as *****ing Scottish Prime ******ing minister. Can't have that *****ing potato-face Salmond *****ing doing it. ***ing Cameron's presided over a *****ing shambles.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Clergy Dating Agency - Application Form For Clergymen looking for Women

1. What do you like to wear to be trendy?
□ Tweedy jacket
□ Leather jacket
□ Denim jacket

2.  Which subject would your ideal partner teach?
□ Pre-school
□ Lower school
□ History
□ English
□ RE
□ Retired teacher who is now another minister

3. What are your favourite day-off hobbies (tick all that apply)?
□ Steam Locomotives
□ Steam Locomotives
□ Steam Locomotives
□ Steam Locomotives
□ Day off?

4. If you had not been a minister of religion, what other job would you have done? (if nun, write "none"*. It's safer if the bishop finds out)
□ Lumberjack
□ Prog Rock Musician
□ Teacher
□ Theology Lecturer

5. What is your favourite after-shave?
□ Carbolic
□ Old Spice
□ Lynx
□ Incense
□ Old Books

6. What is your favourite activity when with close friends outside of your church? 
□ A nice pilgrimage
□ Talking about the parish
□ Sorry, I don't understand the question

7. How would you describe your appearance? 
□ Attractive
□ Unattractive
□ I don't think this is either/or so much as both/and

8. What are you looking for in a life partner?
□ A friend
□ A lover
□ An administrator
□ A supporter
□ An organist

9. Which newspaper do you read? 
□ The Guardian

* No longer copyright, W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman

The Warden Watches his Step

"Septimus! How lovely to see you!"

Old Bishop Grantly of Barchester smiled gently at his old friend.

"Stephanie!" responded the Warden, happily, using the pet name the Bishop had first acquired at Oxford. "I came as soon as Susan told me I was wanted."

The Archdeacon stepped quietly out of the shadows of the inglenook, where he had been warming himself.

"And that, Warden, is exactly the sort of thing you must not be saying from now on. "

Warden Harding looked baffled and sad. He glanced from Archdeacon Grantly, his son-in-law, to the Bishop and back.

"I am sorry - what must I not do?"

"Camp talk, gay ways, marrying other men. The House of Bishops has ruled it out. You can be as gay as you like, Warden. But you can't do as gay as you want. The Bishop and his friends have spoken."

"Well, not all of us," responded his father,  "I fell asleep before the vote. And the bishops of Melchester and Wintoncester are, and always have been, complete raving...."

"Enough, bishop. And that's a completely different author's imaginary southern England  place names. I hope I have made myself clear to the Warden. No gay stuff."

"Gay?" said the Warden. I like to think, when I play my instrument of an evening, that I and indeed all the men of Hiram's Hospital are made somewhat gay....."

"This is just what I feared!" exclaimed the Archdeacon.  "This must all stop. Before you know where you are, you'll be marrying Bunce, and Tom Towers will be splashing it across four pages of the Jupiter."

"Oh, I don't know. Bunce is nice enough, but he's a man.  And, even if he were a woman, he's hardly the right class."

"More your rough tra....?" began the Bishop, but was silenced by a look from the Archdeacon.

"I hope I have made the matter very clear?"

"Yes Archdeacon," replied Warden Harding, while his hands - as they were wont when he was deeply moved - made sweeping gestures across an invisible cellist. 

"But just one question, Archdeacon?" interrupted the Bishop.


"Where do you get your black gaiters and breeches? They're all the rage down Old Compton Street."

The Archdeacon looked grim. His troubles were just beginning.

Monday 8 September 2014

Worship in the Style of Vatican 2

Our "Spirit of Vatican 2" service was, at best, patchy, and has left us with a lot to think about.

Obviously, until there's a female Pope there's no question of us thinking about whether to readmit the Catholics to the Beaker fold. We threw them out after Athanasius slipped some bans on moon observances and pebbles into the minutes of the Nicene Council. You know how it is with minutes - by the time of the next meeting nobody can remember what was said, and the minutes just get passed on the nod. I believe that Graham Taylor got the job of England manager in a similar manner. And don't even get me started on the Filioque.

But we're still happy to pinch ideas off our scattered, Plymouth or Quivering Brethren. So when I realised what the Spirit of Vatican 2 actually means, I was up for it.

Basically, the Spirit of Vatican 2 means anything you want to believe came out of that much-maligned Council, plus anything you've ever been told it decided.

So today's event included:

Liturgy in the Vernacular (which, not specifying whose vernacular, we took to mean Georgian. Dunno why, just a whim.)

Liturgical pole dancing.

Praying in Welsh. Well, Midrag claimed it was Welsh. I reckon she was just shouting "coriander" repeatedly.


A redefinition of the days when you can have a break during fasts, to include those with a "y" in them.

A radical decentralisation of the service, so everybody could worship as they liked under the banner of "inclusiveness". Admittedly a bit of a mistake. We had to stop Chezney ripping the still-beating heart out of that pike. You can be too inclusive, it turns out.

Pole-dancing clowns, singing "Eskimo Neil" in Welsh on the grounds that "worship has to be more accessible'.

Hip-hop Evensong, because "we've got to get in touch with the kids."

Singing "Kum By Ah". At Hip-hop Evensong. Because "you've got to take people with you."

Me getting to wear a nice tiara, and being officially declared "implausible".

Singing "Happy Birthday" to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

So quite an afternoon.  It's a rush on now before this evening's "Howling at the Moon" service. We've got to round up all the wild boar who are running amok, drunk on windfall cider apples, in the Orchard, and get the pike extracted from the baptistry. Those Catholics are such party animals!

Sunday 7 September 2014

There is a Difference Between Evangelism and Evangelicalism

It is not, brothers and sisters, with any intent to prove myself as good as the pagan archpriestess next door - I refer, of course, to the soi-disant Archdruid Eileen, that I point out a worse typographical discrepancy today than she did yesterday.

I have to admit, however, that this is more far-reaching than the minor - and quickly corrected - confusion between "canon" and "cannon" that Eileen identified.

And it is on the "Comment is Free" page of the Guardian. I encourage my flock never to go to this lair of atheism and liberal horror, but I like to go there occasionally - strong in the faith - and wonder what the world is coming to. And then I - in a way - rejoice knowing that, however far this world is fallen, it can be raised back up. Except for the people of the Guardian, who, without a miracle, are on their way a long way down.

A long way down.

On this occasion, this was the error that caught my eye. I attach the screen capture as even the Guardian, I believe, correct errors occasionally. Although not that of employing Polly Toynbee.

Tall, tattooed and forthright, can Nadia Bolz-Weber save evangelism?

I would like to assure my readers that, despite his atheism, Andrew Brown does understand the difference between evangelicalism and atheism. This is a problem with editing. However, in case any of my readers do not possess yet enough knowledge of the True Path - still feeding on the milk of newborns, as indeed we all must - then I shall define the difference between the two for you.

Evangelicalism: This is the belief that we are all broken people, but some are more broken than others. We, being set free from our sins, and trying to resist temptations, are further enabled to identify sins in other people, that we ourselves are not tempted by. Being set free, we can encourage them to be more like us. We use the Bible to help us understand how broken we used to be, and how broken others still are.

Evangelism: This is shouting at people in town centres that they are going to hell, and giving them helpful leaflets such as my own composition, "Fly on the clouds while your enemies fry on the devastated wasteland where the Earth used to be".

On this occasion, however looking at the Bible, I can see that Ms Nadia Bolz-Weber cannot be the saviour of either evangelicalism or evangelicalism because:
a) She is a woman leader.
b) She is tattooed.

I hope this is now clear.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Typo Yo-ho, a Clergy Life for Me

I like the BBC's story about the man who built the Pirate ship in his garden.

Apparently there's just one thing people don't like about the construction,which Tim Jones has put in his back garden in Felixstowe.

Yeah, it's the canon.  Seems he wanders around telling the Pirates they're the victims of a pirate-ist society, and they should be free to wander the seven seas, looting and pillaging, if that's the lifestyle which they have chosen.

Thursday 4 September 2014

Getting Crochet-y with a Knit

The Minister for Charities has said that charities should avoid politics and "stick to their knitting".

Well, the Beaker Folk Knitting Circle (registered charity) are knitting a gigantic sock. We'll be sending it to Brooks Newmark.

We'll leave him to work out what to do with it. If we made any suggestions, that would be interfering in politics.

Seeker-Friendly Church

Burton Dasset is so literalist. I told him I wanted him to organise a "Seeker-friendly service".

So he organised the following Hymn Sandwich:
"I'll never find another you"
"Morningtown"  (which I suppose is, at least, suitable for Compline in the C of E)  
"Georgie Girl" (a radical revision of the story of England's patron saint) 
"The Carnival is Over" (Recessional, obviously).
But I had to veto "Beg, steal or borrow".  Partly because it sounded like we were advocating Antinomianism. But mostly because people don't like to have "new" songs in Church.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Going to Church is a Waste of Time

There is no doubt that going to Church is a waste of time.

After all, you could be on Twitter. You could be in B&Q or digging the garden or in bed. Or watching Great British Bake-Off on BBC iPlayer. Or checking the emails on the work Blackberry so you can respond to your boss's responses, and make it look like you're dedicated before the boss checks again. Or you could be replaying the highlights of the latest England game.

You will have to share your time with at least one, and possibly hundreds, of people who often don't have much in common with you. If a noise-sensitive type who likes reflection and peace and beautiful liturgy, you may have to be next to a baby. If a young mother or father, you may have to put up with tutting and shushing moaners.

You will be asked - though not forced -  to donate money - partly to fund a building, partly to pay the person whose talks you don't like. And then you will frequently be asked to donate money to help people who have never heard of you and may not thank you. You may well be asked to give your time to help people whose position in society means they are unlikely ever to return the honour in this life.

You will spend an hour or more in singing and expressing the praises of what you cannot see, and cannot prove exists, and giving thanks for a transaction involving something called "grace" and "sacrifice" that happened 2,000 years ago - and which you cannot prove happened. You will often then drink poor quality coffee.

You will be expressing for this short period of time - even if it's the only time this week - that the world does not revolve around you. That you are, if rich, obliged to help those less privileged. If you are on the floor, you can pretend for one hour that you are able to be raised up. You will be saying, even if the echoes of the working week have rung around your head from time to time, that making money and climbing career ladders is not all that matters. You will be showing that it is possible for a varied group of people, with different lives, political views and priorities, to come together with a common purpose. You will have had the chance - in a limited way - to express love to other people. And you will have the chance to dream the impossible dream that, although this world is awe-full and beautiful, there is a future that will be more awe-full and infinitely beautiful.

Going to Church is a waste of time.

It's supposed to be.

Spirit of Greenbelt Service

I'd like to thank Chiz for the last 24 hours' "Spirit of Greenbelt" Occasion. Those who went were able to share with those who didn't.

We spent all last night laying on hard grounds trying to sleep, while somebody played Matt Redmond songs badly on an out-of-tune guitar.

This was followed by this afternoon's "Standing in a Field While Someone Sprays You With Water Experience".

For extra authenticity, all toilets were out of use except for one "pre-used" Portaloo.

I can't wait till next year.

Going Round in Circles at Stonehenge

Steve Jones in the Guardian is satirical about the idea that Stonehenge was a complete circle.

It's actually not such a silly thing as you might imagine. Due to the lack of a complete set of stones to make a circle, some sensible archaeologists have wondered whether Stonehenge ever was complete, or whether they simply ran out of stones of the right size. The discovery of the site of the stone holes does add a bit more to our understanding of this site.

And, if you're going to make fun of archaeologists, it's worth noting this sentence:

"The geometric feat of mapping out a circle, presumably using pegs and cord, was no mean achievement for a pre-literate people."

To draw a circle, you put a stake in the middle of where you want it, you tie a rope or cord of the desired radius to it, and you go round in a circle at the end of the cord, marking your progress with small stones, pegs, powdered chalk or whatever your heart desires. It would have been dead easy for a pre-literate group of people - literary being a measure of a certain kind of progress rather than intelligence. If you want proof of this, read below the line on the Comment is Free page.

In fact, many of the "circles" aren't actually very good (though Stonehenge is), suggesting the Beaker People responsible just stuck them roughly in place, then jiggled them about until it looked about right. The ditch at Avebury, also, is not a true circle

In passing, the definition of a "henge" is a monument having a ditch inside a bank rather than outside - its poor defensive possibilities meaning that it's unlikely to be a fortification, and therefore it's ceremonial (i.e. we don't know what it's for).  Stonehenge, having its bank inside the ditch, therefore is not a henge - even though it gave half it's name to them. It's a rock 'n' roll world, is archaeology.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Road to Nowhere

A smashing tweet from the Swedish Canary:

I presume, as in Westminster, that there is a Cycle Lane to Purgatory. But it does make me think. It's quite easy to drive down a highway to Hell. But it's hard work to climb up a stairway to heaven.

Monday 1 September 2014

The "Soon be Xmas" Service

Let's face it, there's nothing draws in the punters so much as Christmas and Harvest. That's why we celebrate Western, Eastern and Original Beaker Christmasses here at the Beaker Folk. We tried finding out what the Eastern Orthodox dating of Harvest Festival is, but Fr Alexei just gave us a dirty look and said something profound in Bulgarian. Or possibly Finnish.

Anyway, the point is, Harvest is still a few weeks away - we like to make sure we can re-use the pumpkins and marrows for punkies at Samhain - and so we thought what we would have is the "Soon be Xmas" service. This combining the fun of the Yuletide season, the expectation of Advent, the ability to be outside for the service because it's late Summer and, in passing, the latest Transfer Deadline news coming through.

A great advantage of holding a Christmas service in Summer is that we can use all those solar-powered fairy lights we bought in the New Year Sale. They're never gonna charge up in December, after all. Though we've still hours to wait today till it gets dark enough for them to switch on, obviously.

The "3 Months to Nativity Play" was a bit odd, admittedly. Mary telling Joseph off for the way he drank too much at John the Baptist's Purification ceremony does not exist within the traditional Canon. Mind you, neither do silent babies, lowing oxen and the Little Drummer Boy, so not necessarily a great problem there. 

The narrator went off on his own to a large degree, though. Having all the relatives complain to Mary that she already knows it's gonna be a boy - "you've spoilt the surprise". Mary's response to Joseph telling her they've got to go to Bethlehem for the census - " are you sure you're not making this up for theological reasons, Joe?" And the touching closing scene where, with cattle not lowing, no shepherds or wise men, Mary and Joseph sit reading baby books.

The carols were nice: "O get ready all ye faithful, time to book the works do"; "Hark the Tesco's profit warning means mince pies already in the shops" and "In the bleak late summer". And then Father Christmas appeared to show all the kids a load of partly-assembled toys, and tell us that Rudolph couldn't make it because he was back at the North Pole dealing with a major flooding incident.

Then, as fake snow fell on the ground, we joined in a rousing chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" to celebrate Methodist New Year.

A smashing time was had by all. I can't wait for the real thing!