Tuesday 31 May 2016

Liturgy for the Passing of Carla Lane

Hymn (The Theme from Bread)


Joey Boswell: Greetings!

All: And Greetings to you.

Archdruid: I am a middle-aged woman in search of adventure. My life is dull, and yet opportunities abound. I am not married to a dentist, and my one son is married with a child and does not block the driveway with a car so we have to do an amusing "getting off the drive" dance. When will a tall dark stranger appear mysteriously to bring glamour and excitement into my life?

R Lucien: I'm worried about me rabbits.

Archdruid: I wasn't really thinking about you, R Lucien,

R Carol: R Lucien isn't really a candidate. He's really only interested in his rabbits.

A tea light is lit for the soothing of R Lucien's concerns about his rabbits

Mrs Boswell: I'm confused. Am I Mrs Boswell from the Liver Birds or Mrs Boswell from Bread?

Freddy Boswell: I'm not sure. Have you met Lilo Lil?

Mrs Boswell: SHE IS A TART!!!

Freddy: Then you're Mrs Boswell from Bread.

The Offertory Chicken is passed around

The Offertory Chicken

Liturgical Liver-dance

Archdruid: You dancin'?

All: You askin'?

Archdruid: I'm askin'.

All: We think it's a bit unseemly in Church really. 

Sandra: Do you think I'll ever get married?

Archdruid: One thing we can say is that Carla Lane would never have killed Harambe the Gorilla.

Ken Livingstone: No. That was Hitler.


Grandad Boswell: Where's me Pudding!

Monday 30 May 2016

The Church of Saint Edward the Previous Vicar

Welcome to the website of the church of Saint Edward the Previous Vicar.

The church of St Edward the Previous Vicar is dedicated to the blessed memory of St Edward. Who was the previous vicar, in case you were wondering.

St Edward was a paradigm of ecclesiastical virtue. The father of four beautiful, well-behaved children. His wife, St Mrs Edward, kept herself to herself, didn't have any airs or graces, and was content merely to lead the Sunday School, play the organ, bake cakes for the fetes, lead the Under 4s Tot's Group, the Mothers' Union and the Jam-making Circle.

St Edward the Previous Vicar was a man of enormous resources and talents. He was available to all members of the parish at all times. Including his day off - indeed, especially his day off. His sermons, although only four minutes long, were beautifully-researched pieces of theology, full of brilliant illustrations and amusing stories. He had a psychic ability to know exactly what church building maintenance was required - including an uncanny ability to leave the pews exactly where they are. He was dedicated to all the hymns written between 1871 and 1872 - allowing the organist to play nothing else.

When St Edward the Previous Vicar was the vicar, the Parish Share was always easily paid, even when nobody gave any money in the collection. And the church was full. Completely full. People used to queue up. And there were hundreds of kids in the Sunday School. Hundreds.

The history of the name of the Church of St Edward the Previous Vicar is interesting. Until 2011, it was known as the Church of St Brian the Previous Vicar. St Brian was a holy man. So holy was the man that, by comparison with St Brian, the vicar at the time was, to be honest, a bit of a disappointment.

History does not record the name of the vicar at the time that the church was dedicated to St Brian the Previous Vicar. But we can assume he probably wasn't very good.

Priests "Too Busy to Know Whether They're Too Busy"

The Pope has said that priests have to stop being so lazy, and be more available for their congregations.

"That's absolutely great," said Fr McGuire of the Craggy Island Parish, "I'll have to make myself more available.

"I do have masses at 6pm on Saturday. Then 7, 9 and 11 on Sunday. And visits to the sick and dying. And random people knocking on the door asking for money. And then there's the street pastoring. And the two masses each week day. And confessions. And, as there's so few vocations and so little support from elsewhere, I've taken over the church at Rugged Island as well. But I'm getting on OK and I hope, if things work out OK, that I might be able to have some lunch on Thursday."

For a comparison, we asked the Revd Geraldine Granger, of Dibley Parish, whether she thought that Church of England priests might have similar problems. But she told us that, since Dibley has been merged with the Ridgeway Benefice, the M40 Cutting Benefice and and the parish of St Jude's the Useless, she hasn't really had much time to consider whether she's a bit busy.

The Great Lesbian Fish Film Shock Horror

Much excitement over the claim that there are lesbians in "Finding Dory".

But not really that radical. After all, Nemo is a clownfish. And to quote Wikipedia:
"In a group of anemonefish, there is a strict dominance hierarchy. The largest and most aggressive female is found at the top. Only two anemonefish, a male and a female, in a group reproduce through external fertilization. Anemonefish are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning that they develop into males first, and when they mature, they become females. If the female anemonefish is removed from the group, such as by death, one of the largest and most dominant males will become a female. The remaining males will move up a rank in the hierarchy."
Nemo's "Dad" may well have been a male when he fathered Nemo. But if he was top clownfish, when his mate died, he went on to be a female.

So Nemo's Dad underwent a transition to female. Two lesbian humans? Finding Dory isn't really trying.

Micromanaging the Scottish People

Zoe Williams draws attention to further attempts by the Scottish establishment to control its underlings. Sorry, population. Specifically as a man who says he doesn't want to hector women, tells us that women with any kind of health problem, or suffering from domestic abuse, should not have children until they've pulled themselves together.

It's a common theme in Scottish politics, this desire to keep the populace well-regulated and under the thumb. So you have to live a "good life" to have a baby - like it's some kind of reward for working hard for RBS and being a good Scots Nat.

In other news, the Scots government lowered the drink-drive limit a couple of years ago, and introduced a smoking ban in pubs 10 years ago. Now it has discovered that Scotland is a "nation of home drinkers". Well, imagine a well-known expression involving the discovery by Mr Holmes of Baker Street that he has run out of natural garden fertiliser. If you are surprised that if people can't drive home after one pint of beer, and can't smoke in pubs, they might drink at home, you probably shouldn't be consulted for your views on public health policy, as you clearly have no concept of what consequences are.

So the poorer people of Scotland, sitting in their lonely homes, drinking in front of Britain's Got Talent with a fag in their hand, wait anxiously in case the Glasgow health police knock on their doors to tell them they'd better not think about having sex without contraception. I don't think the Scots should have been allowed to have a referendum on their independence. Their mistresses and masters clearly don't think think they could be trusted with that much responsibility.

Saturday 28 May 2016

A Centurion and a Baptism

When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’ (Luke 7:9)
The young couple came to the church with their friends and extended family, to have their baby daughter baptised.

The family as a whole looked uncomfortable and a bit out of sorts. The mum was so proud, and yet a bit flustered and confused. The men were over-dressed - unused to ties, the grandfathers in suits that had fitted them well when they last wore them twenty-five years ago. A few of them didn't realise it was so hard parking outside the church, and arrived ten minutes late, having driven up and parked on the country lanes. The really keen ones - the baby's parents and the godparents - had parked in the special parking spots that "belonged" to some regular worshippers.

But as increasingly they outnumbered the regulars, they smiled and laughed and chatted as their friends and relatives came in, blinking in the unexpected darkness. They chatted through the "quiet time" before the service, through the early parts of the service. They giggled as the priest went past in his rather fetching - as they saw it - frock.

It wasn't just the car parking spaces they'd nicked. The early ones had sat in the wrong pews. The late ones, unaware of the church tradition, sat near the front. They stood up and sat down at the wrong time. Assuming this was what you did at church, some of them knelt for all the prayers.

Being a family with a lot of young adults, there were a lot of children. The smallest toddler toppled off a pew and smacked his head on the back of the one in front, screaming through the confession. The bigger ones were swiftly bored and, with nothing to do, started squabbling and fighting. When the Gospel procession went down the aisle, nobody turned to face it and the reading was directed at the back of many of their necks.

During the sermon, shocked by there being a joke, a few of them laughed embarrassingly and far too long.

When it came to the baptism, the parents and godparents stood awkwardly around and mumbled their professions and promises. The child was baptised to a storm of flashlights from endless phones - one of which had played  AC/DC's "Hell ain't a bad place to be" during the sermon, when a real latecomer had phoned up to ask where the church was.

During the second set of prayers, the children had descended to throwing hymn books at each other. Their parents had given up trying to control them. The men mostly tutted, wandering when opening time might come round.

Having no idea what a "Eucharist" meant, the baptism party assumed that the Peace was the dismissal. While the regular congregation went around shaking hands with each other, the strangers walked straight out of the door and headed for the pub. A few of them thought it wasn't very nice of the vicar not to say goodbye. But mostly they didn't worry. The job was done.

The congregation relaxed. They could enjoy the peace of the Sacrament while simultaneously filing away being able to complain that the baptism people had walked out halfway through the service. They would enjoy that, during coffee. Normally it was just the vicar they had to complain about.

The vicar relaxed as well. He wasn't going to have to deal with the people who didn't really understand what they were doing, but came up for communion anyway. He hated that. Hated confusion. They had rules to keep things ordered.

 They'd sat quietly with religious faces and holy attitudes when the baptism family come in. They'd smirked when their guests had got things wrong. They'd rolled their eyes when the kids had toppled off the outside of the font while watching the baptism. They'd not welcomed them, they'd not helped them when they were confused.They'd glared at the seats they normally sat in, while carefully not looking in the eyes of the temporary occupants.

They'd never understood about Jesus on the cross, arms held out to the whole world. Not understood about preaching the Gospel to all nations. Missed the point of the story of the centurion.

They'd never really understood God's love at all.

"I Gave up Christianity and Started Following Jesus"

I heard this phrase quoted this morning. And it sounds so good, doesn't it? Going from that boring, old, dead tradition to following the man who who God chose to be on earth.

So the person who first used this phrase probably thought they were doing this:
"I gave up Christianity and started following Jesus"
But hang on a mo. There's a description for the belief system that involves believing in Jesus. It's.... what's the word? Oh yes. Christianity. You can't "give up" on Christianity just by deciding you don't like the definition of the word. What you're really saying is you're giving up all that judgemental / doctrinal / stuffy / traditional stuff, to follow Jesus. Leaving all those judgemental / doctrinal / stuffy / traditional people behind. But that still makes you a Christian, sorry. It's what the word means. 

What I suspect the expression really means is this: 
"I thought I gave up Christianity but actually started thinking I was better than others"
Or, being more charitable perhaps:
"I thought I gave up Christianity but I don't really understand what words mean"

Friday 27 May 2016

The Beaker view on the Guardian: Suppose it's Gone Forever?

Is the end of the Guardian in sight? The most recent ABC data shows that its circulation is down 3.8% year on year. It is very nearly half of one percent of the adult population; far less than that of the Telegraph, Mail or any other non-smug newspaper..

The study also shows that the Guardian is extremely bad at either making converts or retaining cradle readers. It can no longer depend on its heartland of moderate leftist voters. The two big left-wing parties, the LibDems and Labour, lost vast numbers of votes late year. It is only the smallest and most self-consciously left-wing forms of Socialism (Corbynisn) that manage to retain believers, in part no doubt because they feel cut off from the society around them.

This decline in self-identification probably has very little to do with belief. Guardian readers have always been heretics, with only the vaguest notion of what progressive views are, and still less of an allegiance to them. The difference is now that they don't even bother reading articles by Giles Fraser, even if they still hold the same vague convictions about being nice to people or the idea that Waitrose is somehow right.
The entire Guardian readership at an Owen Jones
talk on "how to be a really rich socialist"

Over the last 50 years “Polly Toynbee” has come to stand for the opposite of logic and reason. This is partly an outcome of the sheer drivel she writes, and her overwhelming belief that she is right about everything. “The Guardian” now appears to young people as pretentious ageing hippies, whose main purpose is to pretend to be really right-on in their sexuality, in the service of aspiring to some kind of sixties hipness. Supporting the Labour party was always going to be a high-risk strategy for a newspaper that tries to appeal to middle-class people. But the Guardian was so much a part of the old liberal state that life in post-liberal England was never going to be easy.

It’s hard to see a route back for the Guardian. One of the most striking features of the ABC data is that the only people reading newspapers just want to read about the weather, health scares and Princess Di conspiracies. Meanwhile, most new Guardian readers are just people who wonder where the Independent went. “Market Share” turns out to be a game that newspapers play with each other, and not with the outside world. The Guardian, which used to be as straightforward a route into liberalism as the Telegraph was for conservatism, has become very much alien and utterly irrational. All it now has is the people who comment BTL on "Comment is Free", in between shouting at Question Time and eating quinoa. Time is running out.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Liturgy for the Introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act

A tea light is lit.

All: Ah! Chamomile! So relaxing.

ARP Hodges: Put that light out, Napoleon! Don't you know there's a war against legal highs on?

A tea light is extinguished.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

The Platonic Ideal of a Polar Bear

Reporting that a polar bear / grizzly cross has been discovered, the Telegraph tells us that global warming is bad news for the polar bear.

In fact, faced with so-far unproven evidence that one grizzly has mated with one polar bear, expert Dr Andrew Derocher says,

"I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically."

I'm sorry?

Is there a way in which the polar bear community is looking at the grizzly community thinking, "if we're not careful we'll all be grizzlies"? No. It's humans that do that sometimes. But if a human expressed that fear, it would be called racism.

What happened is that a grizzly met a polar bear of an alternative gender, sweet bear-love ensued, and the union was blessed. That the fruit of that union was subsequently shot by a hunter who was a member of North America's First Nations is a dilemma that requires a doctorate in Progressive Attitudes to resolve.

If the good doctor is concerned about individual bears rather than bearkind as a whole, then he should worry that a bear has been shot.  If he is concerned for the future of polar bear genes, he should be grateful that this kind of mating is occurring. Because only by hitching a ride on grizzly bear genes will polar bear genes survive in the world that is apparently before us.

If the doctor is worried about polar bears as a concept - as a whole - then he needs to investigate his assumptions. Why is the concept of "polar bear" important? Is it a Platonic Ideal, to which all earthly polar bears are merely approximations? If so - is this a scientific concept? Doesn't strike me as one.

Strikes me the doctor's comment:

“I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically"

is pretty much blaming an innocent. Did grizzlies cause this? What the doctor should be saying is,

“I hate to say it, but the world is warming and EVERYBODY IS GOING TO DROWN.”

You can blame that on human beings, if you think global warming is human-caused. If you think it's natural, you can blame it on God. Or, if an AGW-denying atheist, on solar cycles or Catholics or it's one of those things.

But you can't blame the grizzlies.  It was an Arctic evening. The Northern Lights were shining. And there - pale of complexion and black of nose - was a polar bear. They just did what came naturally. The grizzlies are innocent.

Eating Blue Lobsters - For Their Own Good

I am, I will admit, concerned about the discovery by fishers of bright blue lobsters. Blue lobsters, while quite rare, are by no means unheard of, and do not necessarily mean the end of the world.

No, what worries me is that the blue lobsters in the BBC story are being put back. You see, if we eat all the greeny-gray lobsters but put back the blue ones, we are giving blue lobsters an evolutionary advantage. In the end, all lobsters will be blue.

And then what? Cockles, clams and cod, noticing that bright blue seafood is safer, will start going bright blue as well. Eventually we will have nothing to eat.

And there's a reason why lobsters are dull-coloured in general. Probably, I would think, camouflage. If we encourage blue lobsters eventually all the lobsters will be bright blue, but eaten by bright blue predators.

Which leads me to this counterintuitive conclusion.Eat blue lobsters. It's good for them.

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Property Committee Update

Good news on the Property Committee, whom we had given up as lost.

In fact, they're merely in a meeting which started three weeks ago. The subcommittee on painting the shed had reported back with options and they're trying to decide between duck egg and teal.

Monday 23 May 2016

Soon-to-be Ministers

All over the country, the soon-to-be ministers are under starter's orders. Ready to head out into the world to serve God, their congregations and their supervisors/superintendents/incumbents according to denomination.

But who are these new ministers? Do you know what sort of people they are? Can they, in short, be stereotyped?

Of course they can.

Charisma Kate: Charisma Kate will be dropped into a Charismatic church in a medium-sized town for her probation / curacy / trainee minister appointment. She will be great. In three years time she'll be in a cold Church at 8am, sharing bread and wine with two other people and wondering what on earth happened there. The Spirit will still be there. But she'll wonder sometimes.

Chronic Introvert: In many ways, on wonders how Chronic Introvert ever got through the selection and training process. How could anybody interview somebody who, at any point, was more likely to be looking out the window and wondering what it was like on the inside of a raindrop? How could they engage in group work when they just wanted to be outside looking like a leaf? Well, here they are now, ready to go. And the only question is this: will Chronic Introvert be found constantly dripping round the graveyard wondering what being dead feels like? Or will they take up a cricket bat, express their inner warrior, and beat the congregation into submission? The hot money's on the cricket bat.

Doing Their Best: Having followed a rather unexpected call through three years of discernment and another three of training, Doing Their Best is relieved to discover that it will be another three years before they are allowed to run a church all on their own. They will go out to a first church training placement, keen on doing their best. They will then go out to their own place, and keep on doing their best. Most clergy trainees, and clergy, are Doing Their Best.

Earnest Earnest: Earnest is very earnest. He is earnest about his calling, earnest about his work, earnest about the future. Earnest is going to hold a church together very successfully for quite a while without anything much that is spectacular happening. People like Earnest.

Formerly Working Class Bloke: Holds his former working class status and dropped aitches like war medals. Despite the Oxbridge degree and job in the city. Will be baffled to discover that the "poor" to whom he plans to bring the Good News aren't as working class as he thought, and drive into the parish from the middle-class parts of town where he himself now lives. Will soon become frustrated that the real working class don't seem to be so interested in church, outside of baptisms.

God is in Everything: Hazelnuts, veganism, voile, tea lights, bodhrans, Tibetan bells, liturgical dance, Coldplay, Teilhard de Chardin. All things nobody wants to know about in St Bogwald's. Mithering in the Mould. Good luck, God in Everything,

Keen Dean: Has been up every day for 2-3 years at 7am for "prayers for the community". Up for late-night-worship. Doing extra modules. Reading the Early Fathers in the original Greek. Looking forward to serving in a church where he can lead other people who have his interests and enthusiasm.....

Liturgist: Convinced that all the Church needs, if it is going to grow and bring the Good News to the nation, is to do Mass better. May have a point, you might think.

Moses; Nearly always a bloke. With a big long beard. Like a more-intelligent Jeremy Corbyn. Confident in his demeanour, his learning, his wisdom and, above all, his beard, Moses is looking forward to inspiring his congregation with quiet words and an unshakeable belief in his own rightness.

Person Who Knows Everything: Despite knowing everything, the Person Who Knows Everything has not had this fact acknowledged by those around them. However, with a dog collar around the neck, the Person Who Knows Everything will now be in the perfect position to explain to anything up to eight people at one time that they know everything.

Pioneer Minister in Training: About to be launched into a Christendom paradigm with the aim of doing radical things. Probably about to discover how good Christendom is at colonising an new work of the Church by ensuring that things are done "properly". Pray for them. Some may sneak through the gaps to be successful. The Church needs that.

Squire in a Spire: Already being a member of the County Set, the Squire in a Spire will now be well on the way to shoring up their position as Lord of the Manor with the additional responsibilities of Self-Supporting Minister. Once all the levers of power have been seized, the village will be in thrall to the Big House in a manner not known since before the Black Death.

University of the Third Age Person: Having seen the whole process of discernment and training as basically a mid-life theology qualification, U3AP is shocked to discover that they will be responsible for other people's spiritual care shortly. They walk out of the college "final hugs and tears" service, and immediately start researching the best institution for their MA.

Woman with Spiky Gray Hair: Armed with buckets of enthusiasm and limitless energy, the Woman with Spiky Gray Hair is all set to turn some congregation's life upside down. And if she doesn't, the 27 grandchildren almost certainly will.

Worship Leader: Plays the Strat at the final farewell leaving do. Knows that three years in a traditional church is going to be hard work. Wonders if this is what is meant by "taking up one's cross".

Sunday 22 May 2016

Heresy Watch for Trinity Sunday

A correspondent tells me that he saw this at a service this morning. I issue it as a stern warning

If you are ever tempted to describe God in terms of an apple, don't. Firstly you're dividing the substance. And secondly, you'll give me the pip.

God's Satnav

The problem with Trinity Sunday, dear Reader, is that Eileen decides she would like other people to preach.

She stresses that this is not because she struggles for the right words to say, or feels her intellect and spiritual state are insufficient to explain the Holy Mysteries to me It is rather, she says, because she can use the day to judge the theological orthodoxy of other members of the Beaker community.

I need hardly say that this is a Beaker community of such orthodoxy that we were last week feeding jellied eels to the water nymphs of the Lost River Fleet.

However, as is usual on these occasions, Eileen chose the preacher for Trinity Sunday by what she calls "the arrow of God's love". In other words, she threw a Brussels sprout randomly across the dining room last Wednesday to see who it struck. And, alas, it was my eye that received the divinely appointed missile. I suppose at least she has stopped using a dart for this purpose. I believe she may be mellowing.

I have just returned from the sermon debriefing.

Apparently, my analogy that God the Father is like a car taking you on a journey, Jesus is like a friend to talk to on the way, and the Holy Spirit is the satnav, showing you the way was - well, she pondered some fairly technical terms like "tritheism", "subordinationism" and "economic Trinity".  Then instead decided that the word she was really looking for was "drivel".

How, she asked, can the Spirit be God's satnav? For, given the choice, does the satnav not always send you down the wide road that leadeth unto destruction, and does it not moan like anything if instead you take the narrow way less travelled? Does it not land people up Yorkshire dale lanes that you cannot get a lorry through? Did I not once spend three hours driving round Stevenage because the satnav could not understand the roads system? If we trust to the satnav do we not run the risk of landing up in a lake? Are we not, she says, actually more sensible to trust to human wisdom and the Book (eg the AA Road Atlas) and to human wisdom rather than to a satnav?

She may well have a point. Although I confess that if I am lost I would rather the satnav drove me into a lake than that I should stop and ask a passer-by for directions.

But it was Young Keith who gave me the clinching argument. If the Holy Spirit were God's satnav, he said, then wouldn't that imply that the Spirit has the voice of Darth Vader?

I stand corrected.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Trinity "Just a Minute"

The usual excitement.

As usual, Beaker Folk had one minute to preach on the Doctrine of the Trinity without subordinationism, Arianism or modalism.

As usual, they all failed.

Anybody want a giant omelette?

A Short Guide to Prog Rock Religions

It was a time of great turmoil. When the moon was in the 7th house, and Jupiter in line with Mars. In the United States, young people took off their clothes, took acid, and marched against Vietnam. While in Britain, a bunch of hairy young posh men decided that they wanted to create a musical genre with an unhealthy interest in goblins and Greek folklore. Unexpectedly the sort of hairy young middle-class people that liked this genre became something more like religious movements than innocent music-lovers. Today,  the Prog Rockers are ageing, middle-class and still clinging to the great times of the past.

Barclayism: A belief in worthy if boring music. Major annual celebration is the Barclay James Harvest Festival.

Crimsonism: Hold the belief that they are the true religion, and that Gabrielism is a heretical sect. Unusual services in their temples ("Court of the Crimson King) where they repent of their Fripperies.

Enidism: Followers of St Enid and St Tommy Vance, patrons of Friday Night music on Radio 1.

Floydism: Ardent worshippers of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Dedicated to breaking down walls. Have a mythical leader called "Pink", but nobody knows which one he is.

Gabrielism: Worshippers of the Mighty (but unreliable) Mellotron. They hold the belief that when a spirit called Rael left Genesis, all that was left was a shambling zombie.

Orange Essence Grindle - a Prog Band so alternative they didn't even go on stage
Haywardism: Offshoot of Moodyism who fear a hellish apocalyptic state where it is forever Autumn.

Latter-Day Marillionism: A millennial religion that believes things are better in the modern day. Belief shared with Corbynism that truth is held in small sects, Social Media communities are the whole world, and popularity is to be shunned. Rejects the sign of the Fish.

Moodyism: Exclusively uses the hymns of Moody and Sankey. Unhealthy focus on the Cosmos as a religious entity. Blue is always the liturgical colour.

Tullism: Another religion worshipping a piper. Suffered a major doctrinal dispute that led to the rise of Blodwynism.

Wakemanism: The belief that Rick Wakeman really is a wizard.

Yesism: Rejects the Buggles and all their works.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Europa League Final: Seville v Liverpool

Announcement for all Beaker Folk with a "Full Board", "Half Board" or "Bed and Breakfast" Tariff.

Marmalade is off. Forever.

The Grubby Nymphs of the Fleet River

New College Street is my favourite road in all of London. There are a few reasons for this. First is the nearly adequate cycle infrastructure, where the  cycle lanes go down the inside of the parked cars - ensuring that if you get doored, at least you won't get run over. Then there is the history. The poets Verlaine and Rimbaud spent a quarrelsome, drunken summer there. The Brew Dog wasn't open in those days, so I guess they must have bought their booze at the Sainsbury's in Camden Road.

There is the presence of a genuine pie and mash shop. And then, under the middle of New College Street, flows the lost River Fleet.

In the days when all Middlesex was meadows and barley fields, and Islington was just a glint in the eye of an old man with a dream that one day he would overthrow bastard feudalism, nymphs lived in the iron-rich, sparkling waters of the Fleet.

Beautiful and happy, they bathed in the silky brook, as it ran through the hayfields of what we call Kentish Town, and laughed as they danced on the rushy banks where the St Pancras Travis Perkins now is.

The Middlesex idyll was not to last. As London spread north, bringing Cockneys with their music halls, jellied eels and pearly monarchs, they also brought their sewage and an unpleasant habit of chucking their rubbish in the river.

And so the great Bazalgette, in protecting the Cockney hordes from sewage, floods, seepage and floods of sewage, over-covered the now grimy Fleet, used parts of it as sewers, and ran great interceptor drains to carry the waters off to the East End.

In normal circumstances the nymphs would have packed their bags (an easy job when you have no clothes) and headed out. But they knew the River Lea was soon to be full of shopping trolleys, so that wasn't an option.

So, grubby and resentful, they stayed where they were. Now, during the day, they hunker down and try to avoid the foul stream of water and the "fatbergs". On sunny evenings they transfer to the quiet of Regent's Park, and there they remember their joy when London was young, look at the Telecom Tower and weep. Then they try to buy some grass at the Lock, and push a few towpath cyclists in the canal.

The Beaker Folk like to go down occasionally and make amends to these resentful, dirt-encrusted mythical creatures. So today, on the annual Fleet Pilgrimage, we're off to London. First stop is the Hardy Tree at Old St Pancras, then it's on to Royal College Street, where the more gullible Beaker Folk will shove pie, mash and eels through the gratings into the Fleet, as a peace-offering to the nymphs.

It has to be said, the nymphs have never said thanks. Still, you've got to do your bit.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Liturgy for the Loss of the BBC Website Recipes Pages

Archdruid: Nobody knows the sorrow I've seen.

All: Nobody knows but Delia.

Archdruid: How pleasant it is when Beaker Folk live together in harmony.

All: It is like extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil, drizzled upon Aaron's salad.

Archdruid: Let us say the Misery.

All: Where once we knew where to find the recipes for a complete meal,
Now there is nothing.
I live in a dessert place.
Stir-fried chicken cannot be seen.
Where can I go to find a nice Eggs Florentine?
What is the best method to create a garlic-infused jus?
Where can we get advice from that woman from Luton
With a Yorkshire accent
Who won the Bake-Off?
Surely she has not abandoned us?
Middle-class people wander bereft
Clutching a nice Merlot but knowing not what it goes with.
Where can we find which whisk is which?

Bereft of hope, we wander wearily
And go to JustEat to get a curry in.

Archdruid: The BBC Recipe Website is ended. Go in portions.

All: Fancy a chip?

To be a Social Justice Warrior

I've been reading Thom S Rainer's book, "Autopsy of a Deceased Church". A slim volume with some great warning points. I'm not saying the Beaker Folk community is " dying", but we do have a very high churn of members and you need to think about why.

Rainer examines how churches turn into themselves, focussing on the needs of their members - not looking outwards in welcoming or social action, or towards God in prayer. He seems to expect prayer will cause things to happen.

Well, obviously we at the Beaker Folk don't hold out much hope for prayer actually changing things. And we're useless at evangelism.

So we've turned to social justice as our theme. A strong strand of Beaker ethical theology has social justice at its heart. Are we not called to love the Pharisee within our borders, and leave the crops around the edges of our fields because they're covered in glyphosate?

So we're having "30 days for Social Action to change the World." 16 days in and we've put a combined total of 45,000 signatures on Internet petitions. A massive demonstration of commitment and faith, in my opinion. And that's before you add all the George Takei Facebook posts people have shared.

Mind you, the world hasn't changed much yet. Nobody in the world is any better of, no BBC journalists have been sacked. The Government hasn't seen sense and resigned. And the Beaker Community hasn't grown.

Still, 20 days to go. And we've all signalled to non-Christians on the Web that we are really very virtuous. I reckon if we keep at it, the world will be changed by next Thursday lunchtime.

Monday 16 May 2016

Living Forever or 5 Months Longer

A survey shows that women who go to Church live on average 5 months longer.

Of course, what this survey misses out on is that the average churchgoing woman will attend a total of about 3 months of Church Committees of various kinds over her lifetime.

So, at most, a mixed blessing, I'd say.

Breaking the Cycle of Fear

In superstition news. Drayton Parslow has agreed to apologise for his claim that  Burton Dasset was using "witchcraft" to ride his cycle without actually pedalling.

After close investigation of the accusation, Young Keith's Uncle the Police Officer has established that in fact Burton was merely coasting downhill.

Witchcraft isn't actually illegal in Britain any more. The last prosecution under the Witchcraft Act was in 1944.  Meanwhile in Husborne Crawley it must be thirty years since they last ducked a suspected witch. Shocking case. He was accused of possessing "a magic scrying and talking box." Radio Rentals avoided the village for years after that.

Sunday 15 May 2016

The Dangers of Driverless Cars

Impressive scare-mongering from the Guardian on the subject of driverless cars, and their ability to be safer than driven cars:
"The vehicles are expected to dramatically reduce accidents and premiums, with some warning they could put the future of the motor insurance industry at risk."
Just ignore the split infinitive. It's not a hanging offence. Really. But I'm impressed that the Guardian, that noble defender of lost causes, does not go so far as to suggest the Government should legislate to ensure a constant stream of injuries and deaths, so as to protect insurance industry jobs. But we've not heard from Jeremy Corbyn yet. He has previously suggested reopening coalmines  - or maybe not - and driving Trident submarines around without warheads, so who knows what he might think.

This is grade A "experts warning" territory. The Express outdid itself with the warning that driverless cars could lead to more people having sex while motoring. Though I reckon their picture should logically feature a steering wheel and some feet, not a pair of hands. 

"Under the current Highway Code, drivers are expected to leave as much room as they would leave for a car when overtaking cyclists.
There are fears driverless cars could be left crawling behind cyclists for miles as they wait for enough space to overtake if the rules are not changed."
Yes, according to the Telegraph the Highway Code might need to be rewritten to allow driverless cars to be as dangerous as driven ones. Keeps me awake at night, that does.

Where does all this needless fear come from? I reckon it's about autonomy. The human reaction to being not fully in control of a situation. The belief that as long as we are behind the steering wheel, and nobody else, everything will be fine. Which leads people to speeding, reckless behaviour, close passes on cyclists, and all the other fun that passes for a day on the roads. It's a delusion, of course. Our autonomy lasts right up to the moment that there's a car crash, or we hit traffic in town, or we blindly follow our SatNavs into a lake.

I'm looking forward to the driverless car world. If we rewrite the laws right, we should be able to be driven home from a night out after a few drinks, safe in the knowledge that we won't crash into bicycles. Our insurance policies will be lower, and everybody will be able to have sex on motorways. (Obviously, with a driverless car, you'd be able to have blinds on the windows. Let's not outrage convention). I wonder why the newspapers are so against it?

Secularism in the City

Interesting if not exactly coherent from Salvatore Murtas at Conservative Home as he argues that the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London is a "challenge to secularism."

This "challenge" is based on Khan's identification of himself as the Muslim son of a Pakistani bus driver. Thus introducing religion into the mayoral election.

Well hang on. Sadiq Khan is who he is. We elect people as a whole package. So the previous Mayor was a blond. posh, philandering part-Turkish, part-American, part-Swiss, part-French, part-royal, Latin-speaking buffoon. You get the whole package when you elect a London mayor.

Two things stand against Khan's identification of himself as a "Muslim" challenging secularism. One is that Khan's voting record in parliament would cause some of the more extreme Islamists to consider him not a true Muslim. And an apostate, to people like that, is worse than people who aren't Muslims at all. The other is that the Muslim population of London is about 12% of the overall population. You can't win London by simply appealing to the "Muslim" vote, any more than the "Jewish" one or the "Catholic" one. You can by getting out the Labour vote.

London is a Labour city. All things being equal, it will elect a Labour Mayor. Boris Johnson has the sort of personality that stopped all things being equal - a kind of one-man melting pot, incoherent politically, often utterly amusing but then frequently just as frustrating - he is the sort of person who can represent London.

All Sadiq Khan had to do, to be elected, was to be dignified and have as much personality as his opponent. That his opponent was a kind of Boris-lite, a posh bloke without the Boris charm who indulged in some nasty sneers, meant Khan's job was simpler.

Sadiq Khan has seized the opportunity that London at its best offers - to climb from a working class background, from an immigrant family, and become a lawyer, an MP, and now the mayor of the City that gave his family a home. He is a true Londoner.

This is no challenge to secularism. Women aren't being made to cover up in Hyde Park. The pubs are not being forcibly closed in Kentish Town. London went to the polls and elected the best candidate. That's all.

Saturday 14 May 2016

A Generic Pentecost / Eurovision Sermon

When the disciples spoke, they were understood in many different languages.

Now, at this point some Pentecosticals would say that this was down to a miracle. But let's be honest, that's a bit unlikely isn't it? And I'm going to say that the more likely explanation - one that's been ignored by nearly everybody except a load of liberal scholars down the ages - is that in fact they were all praising God in Koine Greek. And the reason why the people from all over the known world understood them is because they all spoke Greek as well. But, in the excitement of having these men (and possibly women) running around praising God in a language they understood - instead of Hebrew, which they probably wouldn't - they fell into the confusion of believing the disciples were all praising in their own language.
The Common European Lovely Horse
I mean, clearly they apostle couldn't speak in all the languages of the people there - 12 disciples but 16 different mentioned races. So you know it makes sense.

Which is, in many ways, like the Eurovision Song Contest, isn't it? Just like the Jews in Jerusalem, people will have come from across the world continent with a common purpose - in the case of Eurovision, to celebrate camp Europop and dreadful string arrangements. They came from many places and many languages, to the centre of the Eurovision religion - Stockholm. And yet they join together as one, reversing the curse of Babel as they praise in the common language. Pop.

And it is this unity - first modelled by those disciples, and latterly by Belgians in sequins - that the people of the "Brexit" campaign are trying to destroy. But we must resist. Don't forget, when you vote in the referendum, that it is not just milk subsidies and straight bananas we are voting over - we are also upholding our right to listen to fat blokes in lederhosen singing in that weird half-American, half-Austrian accent about their love for unspecified goatherds.

So let us follow in the steps of St Peter - uphold our common heritage - and ensure that we reject Farage and all his delusions of freedom. For the Euro-pop we hold in common is greater than the things that divide us. Let's rock!

Prayer Time and Prayer Eternity

Fine, useful and interesting blog post from Kelvin Holdsworth on the intercessions.

Long prayers are a problem for the service leader (I will use a generic term as "worship leader" can be confused with "music group leader" and "priest" with only upset nonconformists and "minister" begs the question if everybody isn't in some sense a minister. But I digress.)

In our own congregation, the main problem is Ozric. He's the one who, in a "spontaneous" contribution to collective prayers, used three points, handouts and an altar call.

But when we put some order into things, as request by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians, we also ran into trouble. We instituted a rota. Ozric got on it. We gave training. Ozric nodded sagely, made some meaningful contributions at the sessions. Then two weeks later he gave us twenty minutes of prayer for his aunt's recovery from an operation. With some toe-curdling detail. We made everybody submit their (written) prayers in advance. He "got inspired" halfway through. And who can argue with the Spirit?

And you know how I was saying the other day, how hard it is to fire a church volunteer? Well, we bit the bullet. Took the bull by the horns. Went for it. And deliberately planned his week on the rota for when we knew he was away.

Swapped with someone, didn't he? Thirty minutes into the prayers for Japan - in which he decided to pray for each town in that country, by name - Hnaef had had enough.

It's not common among the congregations of the saved, I know, that the person leading intercessions has a potato sack shoved over his head and is carried out to the car park. But it was gently done. That evening, as we walked past on the way back from the White Horse, we could hear the muffled word "Yakushima." So at least he'd nearly finished.

Once again we have banned prayers of intercession from Moot House gatherings. We've realised prayer is just too disruptive to the work of the Church. But if anyone wants to join the newly-set-up Prayer Group, it meets in the Rainbow Room every night from 8pm till midnight. Though be warned. If a second person joins Ozric, it might last even longer.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Did you Have PPI?

That's right. The world is full of people who can't remember whether they had PPI. Some people picked it up in an unfortunate sexual encounter in Sutton Coldfield. Others were simply taken in by somebody they met on holiday in Worthing. And until now, there was no diagnostic test for PPI.

But now it's easy. Simply tap yourself on the head with a credit card.

If your cat's eyes glow, you've had PPI.

Teeth Will Be Provided

When I was very young, somebody bought me a collection of "Irish Joke Books." They wouldn't be sold these days. And they have not, as far as I am aware, left me thinking the Irish are any funnier or less intelligent than the English.

But I'm pretty sure that they contained the joke at the end of this recording of the irreplaceable Dave Allen.

Which gives me pause for thought. If I don't even think the joke was new when Dave Allen did it - then how come Giles Fraser thinks it was Ian Paisley that said it?

This worries me. Giles Fraser uses the story in support of a rather odd survey saying that clergy should not tell jokes in the pulpit. He is saying that only someone of genuinely quick sense of humour, as the Late Dr Paisley was, should use humour.

See, I don't get it. I'm not aware that Ian Paisley ever had a reputation as an after dinner speaker. I didn't know he had a sense of humour.

And I really really don't think that Ian Paisley would think the damnation of other human beings would be the source of entertainment and light-hearted quippery.

In other words I'm not convinced Ian Paisley said this.

I've over-thought this a bit, haven't I?

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Situations Vacant: Bishop of Berwick

Applications are invited for the vacant post of Suffragan bishop of Berwick.

An excellent benefits package including 25 days paid holiday per year (Plus Bank Holidays and 3 NCI Holidays), Interest free season ticket loan, pensions package and childcare vouchers.

Contract Type: Permanent, 35 hours per week

Could you help the Church of England "reach out" to a Millennial generation in the North East of England? We haven't the faintest idea what "Millennial" means, but we keep reading the word in the Guardian so it must be pretty trendy. We're hoping it hasn't got anything to do with the end of the world, as if it has then frankly we're wasting our time posting this ad.

We are looking for someone who can create change by inspiring and supporting others in a wide network with a strong track record of delivery. That previous sentence doesn't actually mean anything, but we'd really like it if you can act like it does. Professional knowledge of Millennial Christianity and/or working as a barrista would be an advantage.

This role does not have an occupational requirement to be a Christian. We particularly encourage applications from BAME individuals, as they are currently underrepresented in this organisation. Sure, that's because a lot of BAME people are Hindus or Muslims. But don't let that put you off. Members of the non-Christian religions seem to be a lot keener than the Church of England on that whole "religion" concept so we're very excited about the whole thing.

We welcome applications from candidates of all Religions and Beliefs, Race, Age, Sexual Orientation and all factors irrelevant to a person's working ability. Thought, obviously, keep quiet about that whole Sexual Orientation business. Especially if you're married.

The Church of England. Diverse, vibrant and wondering what on earth we're here for.

No relation at all to this. I definitely didn't read the original advert, comment on it and then discover it had been taken down.

And inspired by this:

With Alice Aforethought

I was reminded tonight of the old Smokie song, "Living Next Door to Alice."

And I wonder. 24 years he's been living next door to Alice, and yet he doesn't know why she's leaving or where she's gonna go. She's clearly got her reasons, yet he doesn't want to know.

That's not what I'd call emotional investment. I don't reckon he actually cared that much about Alice at all. He just needed an excuse to write a song.

Unintentional Community

The rise of Intentional Communities is well-documented. Indeed, given the membership regulations of the Beaker Folk, one could argue we are just such a community

I interview any aspiring member of the Beaker Folk. At the interview I ask the following questions:

1. Are you a seeker after truth?
2. Are you intentional?
3. Can I see your last three payslips?

We find that #3 tends to weed out the people who are less intentional.

But you know, we are a fellowship that welcomes all faiths and nuns. That's why we built the Beaker Annex. Based loosely around the concept of an Oxford "quad" - ie there's no heating and it's half a mile to the loos. And we send Hnaef round every day to make it clear that public schoolboys are inclusive, tolerant and better than anyone else.

The Annex is for anyone who yearns for authentic religious experience, but without the extortionate rates of the Great House. You can come along to the events at the Moot House, watch the moon rise in the Lower Meadow, hunt for mistletoe in the orchard. But all without the need to spend an arm and a leg.

Basically, it's full of people who know they want to know God better, but are thrown randomly together to get by and try to get on with each other. We're calling it the "Unintentional Community".

They're a lot close to God than the people in the Moot House sometimes. I reckon that's just a statistical freak. I mean, how could a church of all ages and backgrounds form a better community than a carefully planned bunch who want to live together? Ridiculous.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Depth of Sleep By Length of Church Committee

We answer the questions you're all asking.

Like - just how deeply do people go to sleep during the average, non-violent church committee?

Some said it couldn't be measured. That you shouldn't interfere in these dark, sacred mysteries.

Whereas we snuck into a local Anglican Church Hall when the entire PCC was asleep. And this is what we discovered.

Monday 9 May 2016

Petrichoresis: Or, the Dance of Spring Rain on Dry Earth

Sung and Danced at the First Falling of  Gentle Rain after a "Heatwave" of 2 or more days

O Petrichor! O Petrichor!
It's what we have our nostrils for!
Fresh scent of dampened, dusty stone
So, when it rains, we will not moan.

Hebrexit "Could Cause Plagues"

The stakes were raised in the Egyptian referendum today, as Moses warned that, should the Hebrews remain in the Egyptian Union, the consequences could be:
The River Nile turning to blood;
Locusts and gnats;
A Plague of Darkness;
Death of Firstborn;
The degradation of the Pharaoh's armed forces.

However the Hebrewsceptics  pointed out that while membership of the Egyptian Union did mean the Hebrews were under Egyptian control on areas such as slavery and the new No-Straw Brick-making Regulations, there are watermelons and fleshpots in Egypt. They are also concerned that there may be giants in Canaan.

Pharaoh's wisest men have watched the migration of birds and slaughtered a goat to inspect the entrails, and are saying the referendum is "too close to call."

Sunday 8 May 2016

"That" Local Elections Map - The real original graphic

There's been a lot of fuss over a local elections map that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual results in the election, but has been retweeted and shared on Facebook many, many times with no real critical thought process.

Well, we've been off to the Electoral Reform Committee, and they've got the definitive map. I'm glad to share it with you, to put the record straight.

How to Draw a Unicorn

Bit of a disaster, this weekend's retreat. "How to draw a unicorn" was an autocorrect error in the advertising for "an icon".

All those pictures of St Athanasius with a massive horn on his nose have been declared historically incorrect and possibly heretical.

Saturday 7 May 2016

That They May All be One

”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one." (John 17:20)
We've been through several weeks of quite a nasty election campaign. No General Election - but a series of local ones, plus the Assembly elections in London, Wales and Scotland. London has a population bigger than the other two put together of course. And yet, to its credit, it has yet to ask for an independence referendum.

The London campaign is the nasty one I'm thinking of in particular. Some pretty nasty insinuations from Zac Goldsmith about Sadiq Khan. And alongside it - well, it started with a rightish-wing website bringing up some old quotes off the Social Media accounts of some Labour MPs and councillors. All of whom are still suspended from the Labour Party, last time I looked. But the thing was, when these things came to light, we weren't expecting that Ken Livingstone was going to go the full Basil Fawlty on the matter.

But he did.


Sadiq Khan has written a piece in the Observer today that is eminently sensible and comprehensive. He isn't complimentary either about the Conservative campaign, or about the current way the leadership of the Labour party is going. But he writes some cracking stuff:
"I have one burning ambition for London that will guide every decision I make – ensuring that all Londoners can have the same opportunities to get on in life that London gave me. Everyone – regardless of their background, wealth, race, faith, gender, sexual orientation or age – should be able to fulfil their potential and succeed."
"My slogan was “A Mayor for all Londoners”. It should never be about “picking sides”, a “them or us” attitude, or a having a political strategy to target just enough of the population to get over the line. Our aim should be to unite people from all backgrounds as a broad and welcoming tent – not to divide and rule."
We are all one humanity. Made of one flesh, descended from the same ultimate parents, sharing our strengths, brilliance and weakness. We have no right to denigrate another because of where they come from, their race or sexual orientation. We are all made in one image - the image of God. We are all one humanity.

Jesus's prayer is for all believers in him. His Church would expand, from that small group in the Upper Room on the day before his execution, to a family that today encompasses people of all ethnic backgrounds, ages, origins and - yes - sexual orientations. We can be the model of what it means to be united. Because we should show that in our Church. We should accept that you don't have to be like me, and I don't have to be like you - because, if we stop bigging ourselves up or trying to hide our own deepest fears that it's actually we that are letting the side down - we can see that we are all made in the image of God, and remade in the image of Christ.

Sadiq Khan's words challenge me - because they're a challenge to the Church. We are not called to deny that Christ is God. But we are called, among those who give themselves his name, to show what it means to be one. To be open. To be loving. To be uniting. To be welcoming.

So we the Church are to share Jesus's glory, and to see it. And to know that others may see it differently, because their perspectives are different. And to open our hearts to others and love, as he loves us. And because his name is known to us, to act like him. That we may all be one.

A Grim Day for London

Brothers and sisters, I am shocked to discover that Sadiq Khan has been elected as Mayor of London. This can only mean disaster, moral turpitude and decay for the City of London. It can be truly said, as the hash tag has it - and I have no idea what that means, but the soi-disant Archdruid Eileen told me this - #Londonhasfallen.

Sadiq Khan is - and I hardly dare say this to you - an advocate of the bicycle as a means of transport.

The  bicycle! After all, what can be more ungodly than the use of a bicycle?

Brothers and sisters, I sense doubt among you. What, you are asking yourself, could be more simple, ecologically friendly, unpolluting and space saving than a bicycle? What could be nicer, you may ask yourself, than a gentle trip down a cycle superhighway - whatever that is - on a sunny afternoon in the summer time?

Sisters, I must ask you to leave the blog now. Your menfolk - ideally husbands, as this may be too delicate for a brother or father - will have to interpret the following to your own emotional states and intellectual frailty based on their own knowledge. I am unable to share this information safely with a wide range of people of the alternative, submissive, complementary and in all ways definitely equal if slightly more fragile gender.

Bicycles, brothers, depend upon the use of our legs.

There, I have said it. What more can I add than that? Can you imagine a young lady of the opposite sex, legs working rapidly as she cycles down the road in a pair of Spandex trousers or - according to the weather - flowery skirt with broad-brimmed hat? Do you realise that her cycling will almost certainly be making her more physically fit? Can you imagine her, slightly out of breath, struggling up the hill from Bletchley towards Bow Brickhill? Can you imagine it?
A Clergyman tries not to think about cycling

Well, stop imagining it. It is most ungodly. What do you think you are playing at? You are worse than the heathen.

That, brothers, is why cycling is ungodly. We know the punishment that God set aside for those that cycled in the Old Testament - he broke their chains (Psalm 107:14).

No, brothers and any sisters who, disobeying Paul's instructions on obedience, have remained to read this full article. The Lord is a lamp unto our feet, not our handlebars.

Ye godly in London, come out of her, for great is the fall thereof. The evil bicycle has won the day.

Thursday 5 May 2016

Ascension Day Postponed

That's the trouble with Bank Holidays. Yesterday we thought it was Tuesday, so we lined up today as "A Wednesday Wonder", when we project images of amazing and terrifying animals on the wall and wonder why God created those.

Means we hadn't sorted out the hot air balloon, tightrope, ladders and parachutes that are a necessary part of a Beaker Ascension Day.

So we'll celebrate Ascension Day tomorrow. Sure, it's a day late.

But still, we're two days ahead of the Catholics.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Festival of Karl Barth - Book Now

Next week we will celebrate the festival of Karl Barth by a pilgrimage to Bath. A great man and amazing thinker. An amazing theologian whom not a single Beaker person has read, but who definitely changed the way we think about... Oh I don't know. Didn't he say something about Revelation?

Still, he is revered both as a great thinker and as the inventor of the bath, and founder of Baden-Baden in Germany and Bath in Somerset. A genius. All those Georgian terraces. Or is that Cheltenham? Either way. I can't wait.

There used to be a copy of his "Evangelical Theology" in the library. Might as well have been written in German. Unfortunately we left it next to a book by Rowan Williams and they collapsed under their own gravity into a very small black hole.

Instead of Hawkins radiation, the Barth-Williams Black Hole emits a stream of complex and incomprehensible profundity. We've had to tape the library off to keep children away.

So book now. Spaces are going quicker than your hope when you realise that Church Dogmatics comprises 13 volumes.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

How to Sack Church Volunteers

Sorry for the strong headline. But, you know, clickbait.

But it's a real problem isn't it? Dealing with Church volunteers who aren't doing their jobs very well. Greeters who are massive introverts and hide behind the pews of a Sunday morning. Cleaners who are allergic to polish. Flower arrangers with hay fever.

In the secular, paid world this is relatively well set out, if unpleasant. If somebody is underperforming at their job you have a quiet chat. Offer training if that's the need. Perhaps suggest another department (ie not yours) where they will be better-suited.

If there is no improvement you give them a verbal warning. Which you write down. Then a written warning. Which you also write down. They may have a period to improve.

Then you get the appropriate legal/HR advice and sack them.

This is the private sector, of course. And even then there'd always the option of promoting them out of harm's way. Can't speak for the public sector. You probably have to retire them with a "K" or something.

In Churches it's different. Churches are largely powered by volunteers. And volunteers are as near to unsackable as you can get. Quite often because who's gonna replace them in any case?

But sometimes it's got to be done. Take a typical example. Snodgrass says he'll run the Facebook page. He goes off with a camera full of ideas and enthusiasm. He's gonna reach out to the community and, indeed, the world.

Four years later, the page is still proudly displaying one post, saying "Happy Christmas." From the day after he set the page up. Something must urgently be done.

The steps to removing Snodgrass are as follows:

Suggest he might be busy, and need help. Be assured no, he's fine, and he's really getting down to it.

Leave it six months for nothing to change. Suggest that Rosebud, who's a web developer and everything and even has a computer, might jump at the chance.

Be told no, it's just teething troubles and there's gonna be weekly notices and everything. And a thought for the day. And lovely virtual tours of the church. Just as soon as he's got a couple of hours.

Leave it six months. Report to the Church Committee that things are definitely happen.

Suggest to a few Church elder statespeople that Snodgrass might need to be pushed off the job more assertively - like actually telling him to invite Rosebud to be another administrator. Get told you're a heartless get, and don't you know how Mrs Snodgrass left him 35 years ago and the Facebook page is his life?

Leave it six months. Suggest that, as he now lives in New Zealand, it may be difficult for Snodgrass to keep the Facebook page up. Get told no it's fine, and doing the Facebook page keeps him in touch with the old place.

Feel a calling to another Church.

Sunday 1 May 2016

Feeling Sorry for Labour Party Members

Diane Abbott tells us it's a smear to say that Labour has an anti-semitism problem.

When it turns out that a Labour MP - and one who saw off the appalling Galloway - tweeted an image suggesting Israel be transported to the Mid-West of America, that wasn't a smear.

When a leading Labour politician, out of a clear blue sky, decided to say that Hitler was a Zionist on the basis of a controversial "historian", that wasn't a smear.

When another member of the Labour party called him out for it, and some set up a petition calling for that other member to be expelled - that wasn't a smear.

The decent, non-discriminatory members of the Labour Party - who make up the vast majority - who joined because that was the way they believed they could build a decent country - must be crying into their tea or flat beer according to choice. Because they personally don't have an anti-semitism problem.

And the leadership, if it's capable, should get a grip. Ordering an investigation is what you do when you don't want to know the answers for a little while. Just ask Lord Chilcott.

If the Labour Party has an anti-semitism problem, it needs to get rid of it quickly. Because we need a strong opposition, a decent alternative, somebody we can vote for when we want to get rid of the current shower. If Labour has a problem, we all do.