Friday 30 September 2016

A Disturbance in the Force

This is a troubling time.

The Beaker Folk were terribly distressed - rightly, I think - by that loud, unending scream piercing all nature. It punched three new Thin Places in the Orchard and caused the Beaker Chickens to cower in the corner of the coop.

Having re-run the event through our powerful astral plane analysis supercomputer, Burton Dasset has now determined that it was someone on a Facebook group, admitting they were in the wrong about something.

We are in terrifying, uncharted territory. We should all light our tea lights and clutch our rosaries tightly. We will be holding hands in a circle every daylight hour until things have settled down.

Thursday 29 September 2016

Have Archaeologists Proved the Truth of Footprints?

The world of Biblical archaeology has been turned upside down by the discovery of what appears to be proof of the story "Footprints".

The archaeology department of Israel's prestigious Beth Twedil University this week released photographs of what appear to be two sets of preserved footprints, exposed on the edge of the receding Dead Sea.

Artificial colour reveals the presence of two tracks of footprints
"It may be the most exciting find in years," said paleopodiatrist Terry Towelling. "The two pairs of footsteps were preserved by a layer of salt-rich mud being laid down over them. As the sea bed has dried out, the salt has blown away, leaving these beautifully preserved prints.

"By following the path of the steps along the sea shore, we discovered that there are stretches where there is only one set of footprints. Initially we thought this was because one of the people had gone off, leaving the other on their own.

"But careful analysis of the respective depth of the insteps and heels has established that one of them was in fact carrying the other."

Reaction to the discovery has been mixed. Many Biblical liberals - the type that buy "Footprints" fridge magnets - are furious that one of their favourite spiritual stories has apparently been proven to be true.
Some Biblical literalists have pointed out that this story is not actually in the Bible. Ron L Cupboard III, of the Third Baptist Church of Snake Handlers, suggested that in fact the other prints were a pterodactyl, and the missing footsteps were where it flew. Thus actually proving Genesis, and not Footprints, is historically accurate.

And Richard Dawkins, famous former scientist, said "never mind that. When will I get my honey back?"

(Footprints image from public domain pics)

Wednesday 28 September 2016

The Origin of Life's a Beach

Been intrigued by a group called the Sea People of Sheerness. An odd bunch. They like to walk along the beach, looking in rock pools and claiming none of the shell fish can have evolved - instead the originals were created 6,000 years ago.

That's right. They're Biblical Littoralists.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

When You're Not Growing in Your Church

I regret to let Beaker Folk know that Smilmir and Jezborough are no longer worshipping with us.

They've written me a very nice letter in which they tell me they don't think they're "growing" in our fellowship. Which I do take some exception to. Thanks to Bernie's highly nutritious repertoire of roadkill three meals a day, Jezborough in particular has been growing steadily since the day they joined the Community.

They do have some specific complaints. Apparently the sermons aren't challenging or Biblical enough. Well, yeah. I mean if the sermons are Biblical and challenging, the rest of the congregation walks out. What's an Archdruid supposed to do?

I guess we could split the sermons into two streams: "Biblical and Challenging" and "Folksy and Comforting." But then where would we stop? We'd have to have "Intellectual" and "Barely Sentient" study groups. "Devout" and "Sanctified Gossip" prayer groups. And "Needy" and "Non-needy" fellowship groups. Actually, scrub that. We'll just stick with "Needy".

Anyway. Smilmir and Jedborough leave with our blessing. And a reminder that, under the terms of Beaker membership, their direct debit will continue to be due each month for the next six months.

Monday 26 September 2016

Ministry of Reconciliation

I would like to thank the Beaker Folk for their overwhelming support for me in this weekend's Archdruidical election. An  amazing 7,129 votes to 49! Even more amazing when you consider the membership of the Beaker Folk was, until recently, only 50. Just shows the great leap forward in democracy since we opened membership up to people who once viewed the Facebook page.

I would like to assure the losers and their friends not to expect an Inquisition after my great triumph. Indeed, to help with the process of healing I will be instituting a Ministry of Reconciliation  (MiniRec) - dedicated to truth and harmony. And as soon as I have established the truth of who voted against me, I will be increasing harmony by moving them to the "Stables". This sounds like one of those cutesy rustic names given to annexes at all the best rural retreat houses.

Doesn't it?

Sunday 25 September 2016

A Wandering Aramean, I

Deut 26:    When you have entered the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the Lord your God is giving you and put them in a basket......
Then you shall declare before the Lord your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labor. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.
He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. 

 The Hebrews could have thought that by making their offerings in the Temple they were bribing God. A kind of "look after us, God, and we'll see you all right. They could have thought of it as a bargaining chip. But they didn't. They'd grasped what God was like. You couldn't bargain with God offer God his cut, in exchange for a decent harvest next year. The opposite of the film, the Wicker Man. Not the recent American remake. Nicholas Cage's acting in that film is terrible. And its general unrelieved appallingness is such that you end up wishing he did his own stunts in the leg-breaking scheme. But I digress. In the Wicker Man, the gods demand a sacrifice so the year's harvest will be good. It's like the gods themselves are weak - they need feeding up. You can only get something from them if you give them something first.

The Wicker Man was based on dodgy reconstructions of Celtic mythology, sure. But you can see similar attitudes in the rituals of the other religions of the ancient Near East. When Elijah has his run-in with the prophets of Baal, the prophets cut themselves to make themselves into blood sacrifices. When the King of Moab is up against it in a battle, he makes his eldest son a burnt offering to his god. They're offering something to their gods, to get something back - treating them like a retailer of blessings. And a retailer can't exist without our paying. If you go to Sainsbury's and ask for all your shopping free, it won't happen. Even their free gifts are there to encourage us to pay.

But then this passage puts us in our place. The offering of first-fruits is made not to bribe God, not to feed God - but to give thanks. And it starts with this wonderful expression: "My father was a wandering Aramean..."

A foreigner, even to the Hebrews. An exile. A man with no land to call his own - not even, as we are reminded on one occasion - with a family to pass his portable wealth on to. A man totally dependent upon God - and therefore, as it turned out, one who saw God.

The prayer goes on to remind the Hebrews - that their existence as a nation was precarious. That they went down to Egypt. That it was in prayer to God that their voices were heard - and that it was God who heard their prayer and brought them home.

And so for anything we give to God. We have no rights with God. We have no strength outside God. As Paul says - quoting a pagan - "In him we live and move and have our being." We are nothing without God. We have nothing except what God gives us. Anything we bring may be an offering - but it is actually more like a thanksgiving. All that we have is God's. And we are only giving back what we were first given. The whole creation is grace - given freely to us.

And if the whole creation is grace, its fulfilment is grace piled upon grace - a pouring out of Gods' love in an offering so great the universe could not hold it. Only the womb of a young Jewish woman, freely given could hold that much grace.

The ultimate gift of the God who gives us life, and breath, and a world in which to be, is the gift of his Son. Given to the world, freely. Offering God's love, freely. Expecting nothing in advance - because nothing we gave in advance could ever be good enough to earn God's love. It's the lesson we hear in Deuteronomy 26, where the harvest gift is a thanksgiving for what God has done. God gives to us freely. God's love cannot be earned, bargained for or counted. It can only be received.

And then we give thanks. It's exactly 3 months to Christmas Day. So I reckon I can get away with a few words from Christina Rossetti.....

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Friday 23 September 2016

Liturgy for the Retirement of the Midsomer Murders Dog, Sykes

Archdruid: To everything there is a season.

All: Turn, turn turn.

Archdruid: A time to throw sticks.

All: And a time to chase them.

Archdruid: A time for walkies.

All: And a time to have a nice sit down.

Archdruid: A time wonder why Barnaby always leaves his missus to do all the dog walking.

All: And a time to wonder how fast everybody would leave Midsomer if it really had that crime rate, but only two murder detectives.

Archdruid: A time to investigate dodgy new age communities.

All: A time to wonder whether the planning permission at the Grange has pushed the incomer businessman over the edge.

Archdruid: A time to be a sinister vicar.

All: And a time to be a really sinister vicar.

He's in the shady ground behind the East Transept.
"Evil vicar"

Archdruid: A time to have a chat with the friendly barmaid down at the Cricketers' Arms.

All: And a time to discover she's done in the leader of the Mothers' Union with a snooker cue.

Archdruid: A time to be a friendly dog who steals the kid's favourite cuddly toy.

All: And a time to have a nice quiet sit by the fire in a house where someone will look after you through your autumn days.

Archdruid: May the blessing of a dog be with you.

All: Fur ever and ever.

Sykes By Miyagawa - Own work, CC BY 3.0

Thursday 22 September 2016

Liturgy for the Move of Great British Bake Off to Channel 4

A statue of Mary Berry is placed on the Worship Focus.

All: Quick! Turn the laser eyes off!

A statue of Mel n Sue is placed on the Worship Focus.

All: Doncha love them? Pure, beautiful and yet oddly good at a nice double entendre.

A statue of Paul Hollywood is placed on the Worship Focus.

All: Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss Judas! Judas! Judas! Judas! Judas!

A tin of Val's Rock Cakes is distributed.

Archdruid: OK, guys. Let them go.

Feast of Autumnal Equinoctialness

A murmuration of starlings murmurs above, to be summarily terminated by a murder of crows.

HYMN: Last day of Summer  (MacColl)

Archdruid: As the world turns.

All: And summer turns to autumn.

Archdruid: All the leaves are brown, and the skies are gray.

All: Easy, tiger. It's only just autumn.

Archdruid: Oh first day of autumn and equinoctiality! Oh liminal, limonescent liminality!

All: Oh it's not another liminal thing?

Archdruid: Obviously. This day of cosmic balance and liminal drizzle cake....

All: Is Hnaef gonna do the tightrope walk or not?

Archdruid: Let us celebrate this most balanced of days - where day and night are so evenly matched, as the world circles like a circle, like a wheel within a wheel...


Hnaef: Aaagh!

Hnaef falls into the Duckpond.

Archdruid: Right. That's a murmuration of starlings and a flock of Aylesburys we've lost. Doing well, for a world-affirming theology. Bring on the badgers.

The badgers approach the worship focus.

All: Aarghh! Badgers!

All may leave through the mush of falling apples.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Brexit Means Wrecks It

Hot off the press. News that Theresa May has selected a crack team to deal with the European Union in the Brexit negotiations.

They will be prepared to compromise as long as none of the red lines are crossed. They are trained in negotiations in fine detail that last long into the night. They are able to spot the weaknesses in any argument put against them. And they will have a strong hand because if after all that, they still don't get what they want, they will be prepared to walk out of Europe unilaterally and leave the EU to deal with the consequences.

Yeah, you're probably ahead of me. She's given the job to a Church music group.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

A Sudden Lack of Interest

What we said was, we'd have a midnight wait for autumn every day up to the 21st. Every day we'd play some autumny music (Autumngirlsoup by Kirsty, Forever Autumn by the pretty one out of the Moody Blues you know the kind of thing) and sit around surrounded by all the "autumn leaves" we'd created by drawing round our hands and feel all autumnal. You know, a bit melancholy but also a bit "oo isn't red and brown a nice palette" and a bit "nip in the air, nights drawing in, soon be Christmas." Everybody said it would be great. Everybody said they'd be there. Everybody said it would be brilliant.

So here I am.

In the Moot House.

On my own.

With a dry ice machine, a load of crappy "leaves" that look suspiciously like people's hands and Earth Wind and Fire's "September" on the PA.

Happy bloody autumn.

Monday 19 September 2016

Christianity and Corbyn's Labour: A Comparison

ChristianityNew Old Labour
Old bloke with a beard has supernatural powersOld bloke with a beard has supernatural powers
Hard work getting women into leading positionsHard work getting women into leading positions
Kneeling on hard floorsSitting on train floors
Big meetings in big cities but losing touch with the country as a wholeBut our meetings in big cities are really big.
Belief in a perfect future. If we just nationalise the railways and shut the schools we went to, everything will be brilliant.
Endless meetingsEndless meetings
Alcohol every week and at all special occasions.We came out of Methodism.
The Jews are God's chosen people. We are glad to be grafted into their heritage.Anyone seen Ken?
Big in the 1840s.Big in the 1940s.
Struggling to keep old buildings openWe should never have closed the mines.
Occasionally people will crack jokes during sermons.Sorry. No idea.
The vicar's wife is expected to provide cakes to visitors.The leader is making jam. But you can forget biscuits.
Evangelicals expect influence due to their monetary contributions.Unions expect influence due to their monetary contributions.
Declining membership.Millions of new members! On Twitter! Anyone know what to do with them?

Sunday 18 September 2016

All Things to All People

Yeah, this evening's "Worship in the 1980s Charismatic Style" did get a bit fractious. I'm afraid that Burton's combining 1980s music, his own form of 1920s gender theory and 2010s progressive inclusivity just caused some kind of a snarl up. Like the beams crossing in Ghostbusters.

So during "Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart": after the third repeat, "And now the ladies" was obligatory. Then "and now just the gentlemen". But then the 2010s cut in. 26 more verses of ever finer cultural, gender, sexuality and racial distinction. By the time we got to "And now the people of mixed race and non-binary self-identification", there was only one person left singing. And I'd like to apologise to Grensworthy for Burton having accidentally outed them like that.

Earthquake, Wind and P.A.

I'd like to apologise to those Beaker Folk who suffered from the "teething problems" with the new P.A. this morning.

It is true that we needed an upgrade on the old system. The speakers used to buzz something awful when Nozdril played his bass banjo. And when Hnaef dropped his voice to a whisper when preaching  (as has happened once or twice in the last ten years) people said they had trouble hearing him.

So Marzhal fitted the new set up for us. It looked quite impressive. Bridley hit the first chord of "Angels". There was a sound like a mighty rushing wind. And six Beaker people ended up embedded in the wall.

Next week we'll try setting the master volume to "3".

Saturday 17 September 2016

Liturgy of Preparation for the Hardest Gospel to Explain in the Lectionary

Archdruid: Parable of the Dishonest Manager tomorrow.

All: The one where the bloke is a crook?

Archdruid:  A-ha.

All: And to save his skin he defrauds his boss?

Archdruid: Yep.

All: And Jesus says what a good job he did?

Archdruid: Yep.

All: Mmmmm.

Archdruid: Let us hold in our thoughts those who will have to explain it tomorrow.

"Little Pebbles" Leaders: Woe is us. For what can we do? We can't tell the little 'uns not to cheat people and tell lies and then read them this.

Archdruid: Bummer, innit?

"Little Pebbles" Leaders: What fun games can we come up with that make this sense? What activities could relate to this? We'll hope the weather is nice and do parachute games. Again.

Archdruid: Sounds wise to me.

Intercessor: Woe is me for I have a text that inspires me little, but scares me greatly. For how can I use this text to guide my prayers? I can only pray for loss adjusters, fraudsters and people who hide banking errors.

Archdruid: People who are too seldom prayed for, in my opinion.

Preacher: Woe is me for I am a bear of little brain and this is a right tricky one. At my left hand I have a commentary that I do not understand. And on my right, a large supply of coffee. It's gonna be a long night.

Archdruid: Perhaps you could try alternative worship?

"Little Pebbles" Leaders: He's not having the parachute.

Archdruid: I was thinking more, small group discussions coming together into presentations of what you've discussed in plenary?

Introverts: No! No! No!

Archdruid: Or everyone gets to model the parable in Play Do?

Preacher: Like your thinking.

Hymn: This text, O God, has stressed-out, preachers from age to age.

Archdruid: There will be a retiring collection. Please don't be tempted to substitute notes of smaller denominations for larger ones.

Hnaef (rushing in): I've got it! It's something to do with the Kingdom of God!

All: It normally is, in our experience.

Thursday 15 September 2016

Kirsty MacColl: Desperate Character

Been playing this a lot lately having bought it on CD a year or two back. It's Kirsty MacColl's first album - released in 1981, she would have been 21 or thereabouts.

As an introductory album, it's actually amazing. It swings widely across the styles she would later tackle each in turn: New Wave, C&W, Rock and Roll and Latin. It's remarkable for the way such a young performer recorded her own backing vocals - until you remember it was only just over 20 years since a young bloke called Buddy Holly had done the same thing. And for the same reason. Who was Kirsty gonna find who could do better backing vocals than Kirsty herself?

Clock Goes Round

High energy slab of post-punk noise. Good fun. 3 minutes of despair about being stuck in the same old place. And if you come from Croydon, no wonder.

See That Girl

One of her greatest ever. Only "Soho Square" competes, I reckon. How on earth did this every get lost? The usual story for Kirsty - the brilliant girl dissects the gormless bloke. In the manner of Jackie mag. Deceptively simple rhymes: "I don't want to interfere. But that girl sounds so insincere." Fantastic piano. Beautiful, practically wall-of-sound arrangement. But the longing, the sadness, the determination, the bloody vocals. The brilliant, brilliant, bloody vocals.

There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis

'Nuff said. There's a guy in the Minas Tirith Chip Shop swears he's elvish. But he's an orc and I'm not sure about you.

(Lonely Alcoholic ) Teenager in Love

Sad, funny, a pointer to "Big Boy on a Saturday Night" and, for that matter, "Titanic Days" itself. Or, looking the other way, why must I be a teenager in love - with an immature boyfriend, an abusive father, and a tequila bottle.

Mexican Sofa

Bit of Latin fun on the way to "Tropical Brainstorm".

Until the Night

You know that gorgeous version of "Something Stupid" she did with Raw Sex on the French and Saunders show? It's that. With better lyrics. And a sax solo. Sod it, this is just haunting and brilliant.

Falling for Faces

Bit of standard electro punk. Shades of New Romantic. Echoes of the Stranglers "Get a Grip on Yourself". Utterly desolate lyrics. Brilliant.

Just One Look

Remember all those 60s girl groups? Well that. Except all the parts are Kirsty. And a relaxed, ska-ish feel. 

The Real Ripper

Swingy jazz with a dodgy theme. Real speakeasy stuff.

Hard to Believe

Another bit of 60s rock and roll.  Nice, probably the weakest track on the album. But nothing wrong with it.

He Thinks I Still Care

Nice bit of Country and Western. Teenage angst and some really decent vocals. And that lovely, lovely irony. It's Kirsty, innit?

There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis (Country Version)

Great fun.if you don't have the imagination to imagine what this sounds like - why are you even reading this blog?

Wednesday 14 September 2016

The Day the Aga Stood Still

So there we have it After 60-odd votes, the conclusion is: the day the baking died will henceforth be known as


Tuesday 13 September 2016

Baking Cakes for Mary Berry

The land lies desolate. The matrons wail, the men lie weeping.

Did you not know it was not enough to say "this is the BBC, the BBC, the BBC"?

The young men stir up mixed fruit
The young women sieve their flour
And they all bakes for Mary Berry.

Let Mel go into panto
and Sue resort unto game shows.

But now they must all go into exile
To the wilds of Channel 4
With their soggy bottoms
And their forced doubles entendres about things rising unexpectedly well
Or people struggling with their tarts
Due to their shrivelled plums.

Did they not see what happened to Top Gear?
Do the old ones not remember Morecambe and Wise on ITV?

Bereft I shall dress in sackcloth
And cover myself in ashes.
Topped off with a rather clever meringue whose recipe I inherited from my grandmother.

Monday 12 September 2016

Last of the Great British Beak-Off

It is with regret that I announce that this will be the last series of the Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley to appear on Blogger.

The next series will be on Blogger 5 Plus One. Paul Hollywood will be playing Young Keith. David Cameron will take the part of Hnaef. Sue will be Charlii. Mel will be Stacey Bushes. Burton Dasset will play himself, after two short planks demanded too much money.

Drayton Parslow will be represented by Jeremy Corbyn - a weird get with nothing in common with normal people, who wants to live in an unlikely perfect world.

Mary Berry will take the role of Archdruid Eileen. Although her stare is a bit limp, to be honest.

Saturday 10 September 2016

Peak Vicar School

Jules has posted some useful tips for people starting "vicar school."

 I'd just to like to add that weird combination of "alt-lit"  the congregation will never let you get away with in real life, combined with over-sensitivity / preciousness / fear of offence. Which can also spin off into superb fussiness. Basically if you go for lunch and there's a sign up saying they will only cater for meat eaters, vegetarians and people with genuine food allergies - you're probably at some kind of church meeting and  quite likely a vicar school.

The Book of Common Prayer is a work of beauty. The hymns of the Wesleys a delight. The Traditional Mass a thing of profound beauty.

So if you find yourself leading a service focused on Mother Julian of Norwich, and you've got the sound of doves crying on the PA, and you want to give everyone a hazelnut to contemplate - but it's spring so you got a bag of shelled hazelnuts from Waitrose - but then you worry about nut allergies so instead of handing them out you put them in bowls as nibbles - but then you're worried about the people with nut allergies feeling left out, so you have to rush out and buy some of Mother Julian's favourite flavour of Doritos - you've hit peak vicar school. Either you have to get ordained and do some real life, or you join the Beaker Folk.

Thursday 8 September 2016

Liturgy of the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek

Hymn: Star Trekkin'

Hnaef: Hoo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo!

Archdruid: Space: the final frontier.

Keith: So it's liminal then, if it's a frontier?.

Archdruid: Erm... I guess.

Charlii: Sorry, how can space be liminal?

Keith: Well, it's a frontier and that's liminal so that's good and we can have a lovely chat about being, and not being.....

Charlii: The whole of space? Liminal? Then what isn't liminal if the whole of space is?

Keith: Erm... the edge of space?

Charlii: What could be more liminal than the edge of something liminal? If it existed at all? Is there even an edge of space?

Keith: Well there must be. It's got to stop somewhere.

Charlii: And what's the other side of the edge?

Keith: Look, it's quite simple. Let me explain....

Charlii: I've got the degrees in astrophysics and theology, and wrote a dissertation on cosmology and you tell me it's simple and you can explain?

Keith: Imagine the Moot House is space. And the Worship Focus is the sun. And the tea lights are... are pulsars. And... please stop throwing tea lights at me.

Archdruid: OK. While Charlii is chasing Keith around the garden. Let's try again. Hnaef....

Hnaef: Hoo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo!

Archdruid: Captain's blog. Stardate 8th September.

Kirk: Raise protective shields! We're crashing into the star! Sulu! Where's Sulu?

Uhura: I'm sorry Jim. He's been absorbed into a collective cosmic consciousness.

Kirk: The Borg?

Uhura: No. Facebook.

Ken Livingstone: Did someone mention Hitler?


Keith: Uhura! You must understand why space is liminal? Imagine this pebble is the space-time continuum... Please stop throwing pebbles at me.

Archdruid: While Uhura and Charlii are chasing Keith around the garden, I've just thought. I never liked Star Trek.

All: Heretic!!!!

Archdruid: OK. You asked for it... release the tribbles!

All: Ahhhhh!

Archdruid: OK. Let's set the warp drive up to 9 and reverse the positron drive.

Scotty: Ye cannae break the laws of physics!

Archdruid: OK. Final hymn. "Every Star Shall Sing a Carol."

Spock: Illogical, Archdruid.

Archdruid: You're telling me. OK Mr Scott. Beam us all out of here.

All: And also with you.

Birth of the God-bearer

Light shines in those dark eyes
like a star, reflected on the sea.
One prophesied is here.
One called not to lead but to care,
to cry, to fear, to watch, to break
and, at the last, rejoice.

One who can hold the hopes of the world
She now cries, yet through her tears
she will see a world remade
powers broken, the poor made great.
One called to receive, then give to the world,
and a way is made in the desert
and a home to welcome a King.

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Prayer Paradox

Has anyone seen the icon of St Anthony of Padua?

The Universe is All Made Up

In a piece on the former Bishop of Durham and Virgin Birth denier, David Jenkins, Andrew Brown says,

"If you believe in a personal God you are, I think, compelled to read the whole universe as a work of fiction."

Well indeed, and beautifully put. The 2nd Person of the Trinity is not called "The Word" for nothing. It's quite a story, as well.

If we think of a Thomas Hardy story by comparison: there always has to be some arrival that kicks the action off. You start, as it were, from a steady state - and then something changes. The equilibrium is shattered and events unfold. The new vicar and schoolmistress wreck the calm of the Mellstock Quire; Clym Yeobright returns to his native heath; the mysterious doctor arrives at Little Hintock and starts behaving remarkably unchastely with the locals. These days he'd be struck off. Or on strike.

And so in the Christian concept of the Universe. The peace of the void -the universal quantum wave form, personified as Rahab and then demythologised into a chaos-sea - is shattered. "Let there be light" and the Universe explodes from a point.

This is the world in narrative form, as the Ainur sang the song of Middle Earth in the ages before elf or human walked its forests. It's pretty episodic, mind. And very little dialogue most of the time. Still, there's always a star exploding or a lung fish taking to the land to move things along.

And then the attention focuses down from the universal to a planet - a region - a single dysfunctional family with its child born from a servant and one from a promise.

But then something odd happens. The author appears in the story. Not just moving the narrative along but actually in the narrative. A fully rounded character, yet one who's only got a sketchy idea how the plot is going to play out. Well that's fair enough. If the author is going to appear in his own work, teasers are fine. But spoilers would be a bit much. And it's funny how the author gets written in as a hero, yet treated as the villain.

And so we characters now wander into our chapter, insert our dialogue and play out our plot lines - each big to us, but each also a tiny part of the story arc that curves towards the End. We can be heroes or villains. That's our choice.

I can't wait to see how it all ends, mind. Once we're outside the story we'll be able to see it all. I reckon it was the butler that did it.

Tuesday 6 September 2016

How to Shorten a Church Meeting

Normal meeting length: 2 hours 30 minutes

Start on time - saves 10 minutes

Pray for an effective meeting - saves 10 minutes

Ban all references to the previous minister - saves 30 minutes

Refuse to indulge any reminiscences from the 70s - saves 10 minutes

Refuse to listen to the views of anonymous members of the congregation, or unnamed "friends", as related to a member of the committee - saves 10 minutes

Only allow the Mission Committee to give one excuse for their not having met in the last year - save 5 minutes.

Do not accept any items of "Any Other Business" that aren't pre-notified - saves half an hour.

Total time saving - 1 hour 45

Actual meeting length - 45 minutes

Overall effectiveness of meeting - about the same as normal.

Another Piece of Celtic Twilight

The setting sun sinks into the West, causing the sky above Aspley Guise to glow like Wayland's forge.

Merry Korrigans dance among the staddle stones on the lawn.

Fair undines, green of skin and eyes, call their siren songs from the gentle Hus Borne, as she traces her gentle path down to the brown, summer-sluggish Ouse.

To the eerie, aeilian tones of a three-strung harp in the fork of an ancient oak, the wodewosen meet in mute assembly to greet the crescent moon  - snug in the old moon's arms.

Archdruid: Sorry, did you say something?

Charlii: I said, Midsomer Murders is on.

Archdruid: Brilliant. I hope there's a dodgy vicar.

Imagine no "Double Fantasy "

One of the minor, not-very-marked dates in rock history. The day John Lennon wandered into a bar in Bermuda, heard the track "Rock Lobster" by the B52s, and was inspired to start making records again.

It's a real theological problem for me. How can a God that creates a universe which contains such beauty as "Rock Lobster" also allow John Lennon to make "Double Fantasy?" And don't forget Lennon had already imposed that chunk of self-indulgent, hippy drivel 'Imagine" on us.

People often wonder what they'd do if they had a time machine. Some would go back to Austria in July 1888, and offer Herr Hitler Senior a few steins before he went back for his big night in with Klara, in the hope of lowering his - ahem - ardour.

Some might go back to that critical day in Wittenberg, and put a sign on the door saying "Bill Stickers will be Persecuted." Would have saved a lot of trouble.

But I've more modest aims. I'd go back to 1980 Bermuda. And I'd try to persuade John Lennon to go to another bar.

Save the Peccadillo

It was at our open forum last night, "Sin: It's all a Matter of Context". Hnaef said he didn't have real sense of great sinfulness. Just a few minor peccadilloes. And everyone else said yeah, same with them.

Can I stress the seriousness of what people are saying here. This isn't just some innocent foibles we're talking about.

Peccadilloes are strictly forbidden in the Community. They steal the peanuts and they're a nightmare to get to talk. And they're always getting run over on the drive.

And I'm deeply suspicious of how anyone managed to cross a parakeet with an armadillo in the first place. Monstrous. Though thank goodness they're only minor peccadilloes. The Great Crested variety is impossible to eradicate.

Monday 5 September 2016

Worship in the French Tradition

Thanks to Vorjack for leading us in our "Worship in the French Tradition".

Basically we shoved loads of crosses and prayer stations all over the place. And then carried on as normal.

Magic and Nonsense in Religion

Two very different comments on my elegy for David Jenkins. A man who in many ways summed up the problems caused when intelligent people try to engage with the rest of us. Kind of road tested the issue, before Rowan Williams came along and really kicked into gear with the whole intellectual incomprehensibility game.

In particular, Nickalong says,
"Those of us who do not want magic and nonsense in our religion are grateful for the life and work of Bishop Jenkins, and any reading of 1 Corinthians 15 reveals a mass of rhetoric and confusion which it is a Christian duty to resolve into a coherent faith as quickly as possible."

To which my response is, well mostly not. I mean, taking the definitions implied in Thomas's magisterial* work, Religion and the Decline of Magic, "Magic" is trying to force the supernatural to do what it is told - conjuring spirits; reciting spells to have a defined effect; enacting rituals to force a sympathetic response. While religion is attempt to approach the supernatural in a state of supplication and, instead of ordering, plead in the name of your God.

Or to look at it another way, Science works. Magic doesn't. And Religion doesn't need to.

But nonsense is really important. Religion often doesn't make sense. To take a suggestion of trying to make sense of the Resurrection appearances. You can't harmonise them. This bodily resurrected Jesus appears randomly to disciples; walks through walls or manifests into thin air; eats fish; meets them in Jerusalem, Galilee and by the sea side then floats off in a cloud. You can't make sense from this. You can figure there was something behind it, then have the humility to stop there. Your brain, my brain, David Jenkins' brain - none could be big enough to rationalise it without importing our own presuppositions - modernist ones, mostly - into the case.

Don't try and sort out the rhetoric and confusion, that's what I'm saying.

You will lose the magic.


Sunday 4 September 2016

In Memoriam: Dr David Jenkins, Former Bishop of Durham

Now round Durham's old hallowed stones
The wind blows in sorrowful tones
For what could be finer
Than defending the Miner?
Pray God does his trick with those bones.

Saturday 3 September 2016

Something in the Water in Tunbridge Wells?

Tunbridge Wells must be an ecclesiastical riot. First up we have the Anglican vicar who drew parallels between homosexuality and paedophilia, wants to start a Shadow Synod and apparently sacked his quire.

And then the local Ordinariate steps in. And its priest says the Church of England is over-trusting because it believes the Bishop of Grantham when he says he's not sleeping with his partner.

Now I don't believe the good Bishop should have to make such a promise. But if he has done, I'm gonna take him at his word. And then leave it there. Not start wondering whether he might ever stray from that promise. Partly because it strikes me as very unfair. And partly because I don't really want to start imagining other people's sex lives.

Fr Eddy Tomlinson is presumably trusted to be a priest without every minute wondering whether he's going to start affairs with his parishioners - male or female, according to his preference, which I really don't want to know about. You don't have vicars at weddings saying "Liar! You'll never manage that!" in response to "forsaking all others." The very essence of Christian discipleship and ministry is "with the help of God, we will."

I don't know what's in the Tunbridge Wells water. But it needs checking, fast.

Quick Educational System Joke

Bloomin' Hnaef. Given he's the one with the expensive schooling, I asked him what was the name of that Japanese education method based on worksheets.

Asked a silly question,  got a silly answer...

Thursday 1 September 2016

Summer Still Here

The Liturgy of it Still Being Summer will now continue for the next three weeks. Can Beaker Folk please refrain from mentioning the word "Autumn" until the Autumn Equinox.

Rats. Just said "Autumn" twice.

Rats. Did it again.

(To be repeated until the Autumn Equinox)

(Rats. Did it again.)'