Wednesday 28 June 2017

Commemoration of Michael Bond

Tonight's Commemoration of Michael Bond will be followed by a tea of marmalade sandwiches and herbs.

Anyone late for the service will receive a Hard Stare.

Monday 26 June 2017

Collect for a Church Contactless Collection Device

O Thou who pourest blessings from above
and knowest both our incomings and our outgoings,
and blesseth both chip and pin,
Bless this contactless PED, thy creature of silicon and plastic,.
that it may take the right amounts from thy servants
in a secure, PCI-compliant and seamless manner.
and open up the hearts of thy servants
and bless their givings
that they may be cheerful givers
and yet never go overdrawn
lest they suffer the dread retribution of thy servants the banks
and fall into debt eternal.


Holland and Barrett: A Company in a Zillionth

Disappointed that the operating arm of the Beaker Folk, "Mrs Whimsey's Doilies" plc, was outbid by a Russian billionaire in buying Holland and Barrett, the sellers of vitamin pills and homoeopathic remedies.

I feel let down, really. I offered the holding company a very reasonable sum. To wit, my empty purse which used to have some money in it.

But in the end they accepted an offer of real money - not just its diluted memory.

It's almost like they don't believe in their own products.

Saturday 24 June 2017

Where Leadsom Leads

Inspired by Andrea Leadsom's demand that the media is more patriotic in its coverage of Brexit. Just amazed that Ken Livingstone didn't push her out of shot to tell her who else had that attitude to news publishing,

I mean, obviously it's a stupid thing to say, and a theft of the word "patriotic". As an English patriot, I want my country to be happy and prosperous - which it will have more chance of being, if we are in the European Union. So if the media is to be truly patriotic it should hold the shambles of the Brexit negotiation up as the dog's dinner that it truly is.

Of course, what the media mostly is, is partisan in different ways. Which is why I read the Guardian, the Telegraph and the BBC equally to keep some balance and something vaguely approaching intelligent commentary. The BBC being so keen to ensure impartiality and balance that it lets Nigel Farage on as well as Diane Abbott.

Anyway, I have today written to Revd Nathan over in the Trim Valley.  Telling him to ensure that the only letters he allows to be published in his church magazine be happy, positive ones about himself. In this way, Nathan will be happier in his ministry. The congregation will get happy vibes. Everyone's a winner. Except the Liturgimoaners. And who cares about them? They'll never get any letters published.

Reaching out in Prayer

Odd little episode at last night's "Worship in the Pentecostal Tradition" service.

Obviously the time of spontaneous collective prayer was slow to start - what with us being English and everything. But eventually the pre-written spontaneous prayers I'd quietly passed round to people before the service warmed things up and we got ten minutes of Cazzandra exclaiming about how we were "reaching out" to God.

Afterwards I asked her how she'd reached out to him. Turns out she's sent a couple of emails and God hasn't got back to her yet. But then God's probably busy and if she doesn't hear anything in a couple of weeks she'll try Skype.

Friday 23 June 2017

A Message from the Bus Driver

Some passengers are complaining that we're heading over a cliff.

That's a bit much, in my opinion. After all, I let all the passengers have a vote. Either the coast road, or the inland one.

And surely the people who voted for the coast road realised that when we said 'coast road', we really meant 'go off a cliff'. After all, coast roads are very close to cliffs.

Specially those coast roads with a sign saying 'No entry to motor vehicles. Cliff edge.'

And those of you who wanted to take the inland route. Why are you moaning?  You lost.

What do you know about going off a cliff in a bus? You don't even like the coast.

And many of you, as we plummet over this cliff, will be asking - is it going to be a soft or hard landing?

Well I don't know.

From up here, I can't tell whether we're gonna smash to pieces on the rocks, or sink into the suffocating mud.

But to those complaining this is gonna be a disaster I can only say, suck it up, snowflakes. You lost.

I'd like to say 'I've got a brilliant idea.'

'But we aren't balancing on the edge any more.

Thursday 22 June 2017

Where Gervais Went Wrong

Nice little piece here on "Thoughtfully Detached" on the big flaw in one of Rickie Gervais's bits of reasoning on science and religion. RG doesn't understand the history and philosophy of science. Not a surprise.

Service for the Day After Solstice

Archdruid: Nights are Drawing in.

All: Soon be Christmas.

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Day of Rage: The Revolution Will be Acclimatised

Yeah, we were going to go and protest at the "Day of Rage" that the party with the most seats somehow thinks they "won" the election.

But it was so hot. And the trains would have been horrid. And London is ghastly in the heat. And Stacey Bushes is at Glasto, glamping.

We'll rage when it's cooler.  Much easier to bring down the hegemony when one is properly hydrated.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Childhood's End

Our marking the passing of Brian Cant last night went on a bit longer than the usual. You know how it is. Captain Flack and the band wanted to blow a Last Post, but since the catering had consisted of the supplies of cider that Windy Miller had brought along, it turned out more difficult than we all expected.

It is a shock though. In my mind Brian Cant was - like John Noakes - still a young man, making absurd games up and messing about with Floella Benjamin. Not John Noakes. That would have been a Play Away /  Blue Peter mash up that should have happened.
But all this time it turns out that Brian Cant had been getting old! And if him, then presumably I'm not immune to the process. Childhood is a garden we may return to, but not in the same direction.

Here is the clock, the Trumpton clock. Telling the time, steadily, sensibly; never too quickly, never too slowly.

Ask not for whom Trumpton Clock tells the time.

It tells for thee.

Monday 19 June 2017

Service for the Death of Brian Cant

Archdruid: Here's a house.

All: Here's the door. Windows-  1, 2, 3, 4.

Archdruid: Ready to play?

All: Not really. Brian Cant has died.

Archdruid: Oh no. How's Hamble?

All: Sad.

Archdruid: Jemima?

All: Sad.

Archdruid: Big and Little Ted?

All: Sad.

Archdruid: Humpty?

All: He's a stuffed egg, devoid of emotions. Don't be so stupid.

Archdruid: What's through the round window?

All: Our lives, drifting past like ripples on the stream.

Archdruid: Square window?

All: Same.

Archdruid: Arched...

All: Same. They're all showing our childhoods melting. First Noakes, then Sallis. Now this.

Archdruid: Oh well. All flesh is as grass.

All: And all Play Schools came to an end.

Archdruid: You remember the biscuit factory?

All: Aaaah.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Solstice Ceremony Transferred

Just a last minute reminder. Since people have to get up for work on Wednesday, we're transferring the annual Solstice Sunrise service to tomorrow.

Since 4 am is a hellish time to get up, we're going to hold it at 11 am. I know we won't see the first tender light of the sun reaching over the horizon.  So we're going to hold the service in the Moot House and show a recording of last year's Solstice.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Herne the Hunter are expected to appear in the Greenwood on Wednesday round about a quarter to 6. As ancient pagan relics they've never really been able to cope with British Summer Time.

Those Newer Versions of Hymn Books

New English Hymnal

Even Newer English Hymnal

Newest English Hymnal

Revised English Hymnal

New Revised Standard English Hymnal

Today's New English Hymnal

New International English Hymnal

Hymns Ambient and Post-Modern

Collated Mission Praise

Combined Final Definitely the Last Mission Praise

Mission Praise: The Revenge

Now that's What I call Taizé XXIII

The New Improved But Still Definitely In Need of  Redemption Hymnal

The Even More Complete Come and Praise

Catholic Hymns Old and Less Old

The Disunited Methodist Hymnal

Combined Songs of Fellowship

Complete Songs of Fellowships

Even more Complete Songs of Fellowship

Complete Songs of Fellowship: A New Hope

Please no more Songs of Fellowship

Sounds of Dripping Water

Thursday 15 June 2017

Imposter Syndrome Meeting Cancelled

Afraid we've had to cancel this evening's talk on "Imposter Syndrome and How to Deal With It."

Jazmine Jones was due to talk to us on how to identify this issue, build up your confidence and deal with it. Unfortunately at the last minute she realised she didn't really know enough about it, and suggested we find someone who knows what they're talking about and isn't an utter fraud.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Seek and You Shall Find

Annoying. Thought it would be nice to have Taize-style High Mass in the Catholic Tradition. Them Catholics always have some saint to celebrate, so I was going to look up whose day it is in my Big Book of Saints.

Trouble is I've lost it. If only there were someone whose help I could ask for.

Sunday 11 June 2017

Cabinet Reshuffle

Those New Appointments in Full

Oracle of DelphiTheresa May
Minister for WhalesMoby Dick
Lord High Executioner Andrea Leadsom
Lord of the DanceBoris Johnson
Eye of SauronNigel Farage
Smug Lord George Osborne
Chief Prefect and 3rd Oik Michael Gove
Minister of Magic Jeremy Hunt
Unseen HandOrange-man
Orange ManDonald Trump
Lord ChancellorMing the Merciless
Foreign SecretaryGrima Wormtongue 
Minister for Re-educationJustine Greening
Ministry of Delusion Emily Thornberry
Minister of FoxesLiam Fox
Minister of TrussesLiz Truss
Minister for Climate ChangeNoah
Keeper of the Queen's Guinea Pigs David Gauke

Trinitarian Sermon Judgmentalism

In keeping with tradition this morning I was acutely aware of the heresy-hunters in the Beaker Folk so ensured I delivered my five minute sermon without hesitation, repetition or modalism.

Someone did accuse me of patripassurianism, but I managed to persuade them that was a type of pigeon.

In the event however I didn't get too much trouble from the Athanasian Posse. I warned them of the heresy of Andalucianism early on. They were all so busy googling, they didn't hear a word of the rest of the sermon.

To the End of the Age

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28.16-20)

Astonishingly ambivalent reading, as Matthew notes that, even as Jesus prepared to return to heaven, "some doubted." But doubted what? That it was really him? That he had really died? That he had really been resurrected from the dead? Or that they should be worshipping him?

The disciples were devout Jews. They knew that the Lord God was one. To worship Jesus would be to accept there was more. That Jesus - the man they had eaten with, laughed with, walked through Judea and Galilee with; the man they knew had died under the terrible authority of the Roman Empire - was God. That God was more complex, more dynamic than they had ever dreamed.

Jesus said, "all authority on heaven and earth is given to me." Here in the UK we've just had an election. Theresa May looked for the authority to approach Europe in a way of her choosing. And the people have said, "we don't think so." All earthly authority is temporary - in democratic societies we limit it through elections. In dictatorships, God limits it through death.

Jesus's authority is in heaven and on earth. So it's unlimited, eternal. But the disciples aren't to go out as a conquering army. They're to go out, and baptise in the name of Father, Son and Spirit.

Baptism is a sign of death - of the water of death that closes over all of pour heads, even Jesus's.

It's a sign of life - of rising up. Of the water that brings us life, that waters crops, that can make flowers grow even in deserts.

It's a sign of the Holy Spirit - that Holy Spirit of God who calls us before we know, challenges us, breaks our hearts and fills us with God's love and power.

And it's a sign of love! As we baptise into the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we bring the one baptised into the family of church. But also realise that they are caught up in the love that flows from God the Father to the Son, that flows out to us in the streams of the Holy Spirit - a love that is always moving, always hoping, always forgiving, always giving.

And through growth and struggle, through times of joy and times of trouble, through life and death, Jesus is with us! Today, tomorrow, until the world comes to an end. He is forever alive, forever our God, forever the one that loves us. Until the end comes, the world fails, the things we held onto fall away, the false lights become shadow, and there is only one thing left to hope on. Jesus, who is with us always. To the end of the ages. And forever.

Saturday 10 June 2017

Lines on the UK General Election

By Melissa Sparrow McGonagall 

'Twas in the year twenty hundred and seventeen
That Theresa May made the stupidest decision ever seen
Her advisers (of whom later) looked at the opinion poll
and saw that Theresa was on a roll.
For Labour was led by a man who was scruffier than Michael Foot
and was a vegetarian to boot.
(And though Jeremy Corbyn is quite scruffy
He's not as bad as this poem by Carol Ann Duffy).
And some said he was friends with the IRA (who used to be the terrorists back in the day
but weren't as frightening as the ones we have today because they would rather plant bombs and then run away).

And so Theresa called an election
in which she suffered misdirection
because she claimed to be strong and stable
- an aspiration for which she was unable.
For she was terrified of the public at full flood
and left the tricky work instead to Amber Rudd.
Instead of engaging with both commoners and gentry
she repeated slogans of a magic money tree
so Jeremy Corbyn made her look over-shy
by leaving his allotment and having memes of giving side-eye.

And so the great day of election dawned
and everywhere the Tories mourned
because instead of a May coronation
they had a Labour restoration
the SNP in Scotland lost their ground
and Liberal Democrats nowhere were to be found.
And Theresa was upstaged by Lord Bucket Head
an intergalactic space lord, it was said.
And Professor John Curtice appeared on the TV screen
to present the most accurate exit poll that was ever seen.

And so on that election day
her dreams of a landslide were washed away
like the last remains of the bridge o'er the river Tay.
Which was the greatest disaster till the 8th of June for May.
And Nicola Sturgeon looked quite glum
And Twitter reacted like Corbyn had won.
But though Labour celebrated like they'd seized the day
In fact, the winner was sort of Theresa May
Although an absolute majority she could not see
she sacked her advisers, and clung onto power thanks to the DUP.


So you've found your church. Got in at the right time. Got all the pieces of paper. Realised how to work them to sing the right thing at the right time.

There will be some readings. Maybe I'll come back to how to perform these. But for the time being let's take them as read. And then - just as you're dozing off and wondering when you'll get some of that delicious "Value" free-trade instant coffee - there's a sermon.

I mean, obviously you could just doze. That's always an option. But if you're new to church, you might want to learn something about this whole Christianity thing - and I guess statistically you've as much chance of that during the sermon as any other time. The Bible has many different viewpoints in many modes of writing. So you're gonna want any tips you can get.

But on the other hand you early on want to define what kind of preaching method the preacher has. That's going to tell you where in future you can doze off every Sunday, or whether there might be something worth listening to. Or, if you want to sleep and they will wake you up every week. In which case you might want to consider a new church.

By the way - be warned. Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday.  This is never a good week to judge the vicar or chief pastor's preaching. Either they'll tie themselves in knots trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity or, more likely, they'll be taking their early summer day Sunday off and have left some other schmuck to do it.

Be aware that the following types of preacher are not mutually exclusive. This is more like a pandimensional Venn diagram in many colours

The Shouter

The Shouter shouts. The Gospel is exciting, don't get me wrong. And the Shouter DOESN'T WANT YOU TO MISS OUT ON THE EXCITEMENT. The hardest preacher to sleep through.

"All about me"

"All about me" will use whichever text the Bible is being used to illustrate their own genius and saintliness. Nothing Paul did will not have a  parallel. The witty wisdom they employed within their former or current workplace is astounding. Their speaking of truth to power a wonder. You will often wonder why they get so beaten up at PCC meetings.

All Greek

Every now and then it is acceptable to explain a tricky term with reference to the original Greek (assuming you're preaching from the New Testament). After all, much of our theology was first worked out in Greek. But every week is a bit much. Especially if the minister us confusing terms. Perichoresis, for instance, doesn't mean what a lot of people would like it to mean.  And it can be translated in such a way as to provide a visual image the congregation really doesn't need. Having said which, that particular image might stop you falling asleep if the preacher does use it.


What is it about preaching that brings out the worst in people's voices?  OK, the reason bishops lay hands on ordinands is to such the regional accents out of their bodies and replace them with Received Pronunciation But even so. Posh, singsong, with odd high and low notes. If you have a preacher like this, don't leave the church. Record them and email them the mp3s. It should soon change.

Biblical Exposition

If the minister asks you to turn to James 1 or whatever, and then takes you though line by line - ask them to send out Bible Reading notes instead. That should bring Sunday lunch forward by half an hour.

Charismatic Chris

Charismatic Chris won't preach from notes. Mostly because Charismatic Chris has not prepared in any normal way for the sermon - preferring to depend upon the Lord Charismatic Chris has either been very blessed by the Lord, and you will be too - or else you will hear the same sermon every week. Probably something that, whatever the reading was, will end up somewhere around John 3:16.

"It's behind you" 

I'm not sure there's any harm in inviting responses from the congregation from time to time. But catchphrases can get a bit wearing. "What does the Lord do?" / "Set you free" - every week - might just  do your head.  And again - in a congregational setting - you can't settle down for a nap.  If everyone knows they have to do the Mexican wave every time the minister shouts "God loves you," you can't relax.

"Preaching for a Decision" 

Here's a clue. If the chapel contains 4 ageing Methodists, who've been to church for the last 83 years, the preacher don't need to have an altar call every week. Maybe just after one dies when it concentrates the mind. If your minister calls everyone to the front ever week - go for it.  If you go forward every single time, eventually they're gonna stop.

"What would Jesus do?"

Very hard to tell. We're dealing with a time gap of 20 centuries and a totally different mind set.

Five Minute Sermons

No use to anyone. Recommended by quires.

Friday 9 June 2017

Politics and Religion

I'm pleased to say that, thanks to the support of Drayton Parslow, I have been reelected as Archdruid. I know everybody thinks Drayton's a bit fundamentalist and intolerant, but I have managed to keep my policies for the Beaker Folk fundamentally unchanged.

So it's pebbles, tea lights, Enya, folksy choruses and no more gay weddings in the Moot House.
Meanwhile Eddie Arthur reflects on the way the layout of the House of Commons can reinforce confrontational politics.

Of course, the way the place is set up reflects its former purpose. As a chapel. Suddenly it all makes perfect sense.

Thursday 8 June 2017

The Bishop of Doubles Entendres

The ACNA has appointed a "missionary bishop" under the auspices of GAFCON.

The Church of England could complain. But I reckon they're missing a trick. They should embrace the views of the self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy.

From now on, in all religious dialogue in the UK, the views of the missionary bishop should be sought.

In other words, we should keep asking him what the missionary position is.

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Live Fast, Die Old

This is the Wikipedia paragraph on Peter Sallis's marriage, from a couple of months ago, up tp the day before he died:
Sallis married Elaine Usher at St John's Wood Church in London on 9 February 1957; Their son, Timothy Crispian Sallis, was born in 1959.

But this is the equivalent, updated the day after he died: 
Sallis married actress Elaine Usher at St. John's Wood Church in London on 9 February 1957. However, it was a turbulent relationship, with Usher leaving him 16 times before they divorced in 1965 on grounds of desertion and adultery. They were reconciled but she eventually left him for good in 1983. They had one son, Crispian Sallis (born 1959), who went on to become an Oscar-nominated film set designer.

Basically, if you want to have a good press - don't die.


So you've found your church. Turned up before a service starts - ideally the key "three minutes before." You've worn suitable clothing for the temperature in the building. Which means, in a rural Church of England building, seventeen layers. Or more in the winter.

The thing you're gonna notice is that people sing. There's lots of different kinds of singing but they can be divided up into the following, some or more of which you will meet depending on the tradition 1 of the church.

Psalms: From the book of that name in the Bible. Some churches have the minister and congregation reading every other line in turn, just like King David did. In the Church of England you get "chanted psalms" - which have a form of music you will never understand, and where each member of the congregation sing their own random note. These replaced the former "metrical psalms" which were good to sing, with decent tunes, easy to understand and therefore dangerously democratic.

Canticles: From the Latin for "probably not a psalm". Something from the Bible which sounds like a psalm, but isn't a psalm. Unless it is.

Lord of the Dance: Dire hippy heresy that teachers in 1981 thought was a proper hymn.

Hymn: A formal song in praise of God, or for instruction or exhortation. Varies from the glories of Wesley and Watts to the Arts and Crafts cuddliness of Timothy Dudley Smith to those dire Victorian inventions that just go randomly up and down.

"Charismatic" "Chorus": ( Insert quotes as appropriate). Something written since 1960. In most Church of England churches will have been written before 1980 as well. Could be four short lines, formerly repeated interminably but now strictly twice. Or, in modern specimens, six verses, chorus, middle eight, bridge, key and time signature changes. The best are pretty good. The worst, like Genesis songs with worse theology.

Anthem: The thing a choir sings during communion. A bit like a hymn but more complex.

Carol: The one in the choir who's always threatening to walk out if the organist plays Graham Kendrick songs.

Folksy settings of the Liturgy: Don't.

1 Tradition - the way the church has always done things, going back at least as far as the last (saintly) minister.

Tuesday 6 June 2017

The Welcomers

Also called “door steward” in some Methodist churches, but I prefer “Welcomer” as it sounds like an alien. Remember that when an over-eager one, wanting to make you welcome because they have not seen you before, tells you “we’ve always keen to welcome fresh blood.” They probably just mean it’s nice to meet new people and maybe you’ll want to settle in this church.

But then – remember they’re called “Welcomers”. Maybe there’s another reason entirely.  Maybe they really are Dr Who style aliens. Maybe they do feast on the blood of newcomers – bringing youth to their ageing bodies, incapable of regeneration in our nitrgen—rich Earth atmosphere. Maybe they landed from an exoplanet orbiting a nearby sun-like star.

Run! It’s your only chance! Run.

No, you’re right. They’re probably just being nice but clumsy.

But they're a guide to the church. A Welcomer who smiles, shakes your hand, asks your name (unless you're the vicar, in which case it's a bit weird) then leaves you to it is about right. One who points at the books and then ignores you might just be unlucky. One who tries to get your home address and three key skills that you could bring to the church may be a symptom of a church that is just perhaps a little too keen / desperate / trying to be welcoming.

But if you're welcomed by nobody and there's just a pile of church welcome leaflets and hymn books - you might want to try somewhere else. Or, of course, you might be the kind of introvert that knows this is just where you will fit in.

That's the great thing about being welcomed into church. Everybody's desired experience is different. Although none of us want to be welcomed by the Welcomers, eager for fresh blood.

Monday 5 June 2017

Hymn for the passing of Peter Sallis (aka Norman Clegg aka Wallace in Wallace and Gromit)

Now all of the summer's gone
The golden ages of sit com
The smart bloke with the flat cap on
Has drunk his summer wine.

No bath tubs left to chase downhill
No Compo's socks to make him ill
No empty glasses to refill
With Tetleys not with wine.

The memories of the 70s here in my heart
Of Battys, Sid and Ivy's caff
They all had to part.

No pushy blokes with stupid plans
No rolling dales that pass with time
It's time to climb that angelic bike
And drink celestial wine.

Actually Turning up at Church

So you've found out where a church is, and when to go.

My advice to you is to arrive 3 minutes before the service’s advertised time. If you arrive earlier you may unexpectedly sit in somebody else’s place – often a seat that they will claim was in the family since 1831. If you are lucky in these circumstances, you will simply be informed that you are in a forbidden location. If you’re unlucky, the pew’s owner will sit behind you, glaring at the back of your neck.  If, wondering why your neck feels so warm, you turn around – all you will see is a sweet old person listening intently to the sermon.

"Sit anywhere you like. Except Esme's pew, obviously......"

Another reason for not arriving early is that the Welcomer1 will talk to you. They may be nice – but you may also discover that they are more efficient at getting information out of you than the nice cop in a detective show. We’ll come back to Welcomers shortly. Though you might want to consider this previous description of what you might encounter.

If you turn up too late – ie after the time the service is meant to start – you’ll be forced to sit wherever you can find near the door. This will have its advantages – you can get back out again pretty quick.  But is it worth it for the laser-like glares you will receive from the person in the congregation who has already put on their holy face once, and now will have to take it off again.

If you turn up half way through by mistake, your best bet is to pretend that you're Eastern Orthodox. Walk in confidently, ignore the entire congregation, light a candle, walk out - and never, ever return. If you come back at the right time next week, you'll be giving the game away.

[1] Welcomer – person who stands by the door to prevent people running in and stealing the hymn books. Will typically give you a hymn book, the new trendy hymn book that came out 20 years ago, a printed sheet with the hymn too new for the trendy hymn book, a service sheet, a notice sheet and – if you are new  - the church magazine.

Sunday 4 June 2017

Simon Jenkins Talks Drivel

Dunno who Sir Simon Jenkins is but he's been talking drivel at the Hay on Wye festival.

Sir Simon compares the (relative) popularity of cathedrals with the (relative) decline of parish churches and suggests it's down to the old, meaningless distinction between religion and spirituality. Religion bad, old-fashioned, formal, structured. Spirituality free-flowing, hippy, believe what you like, go with the flow man (or, in these enlightened times, woman or other self-identification).

But.  I may be missing something here. But. Cathedral evensong (for instance) is first and foremost a religious thing. There is a set format. There are collects, a creed, both the Mag and Nunc if you're really blessed. If there's  sermon it's in the suggested place.

And the psalms, hymns, creed and readings are all, almost with exception, about God. This is a religious thing - and if it's also a spiritual one is down to the work of clergy, quire and laity (and lest we forget the Spirit) that makes it one.

It strikes me what Sir Simon is after is not spirituality - as he himself mentions in passing, it's anonymity. It's being able to dip into his own personal well of blessedness - constructed within the matrix of others' religion - and take what he wants without giving.

If that's what is making the cathedrals popular it probably also explains the financial straits some are in. Everybody wants nice experiences - spiritual or, as seems more likely, aesthetical. But not everybody wants to show the commitment to pay for it. Obviously I cannot speak of this particular noble knight, whose giving pattern - and indeed spirituality - I am not privileged to be aware of.

Spirituality or religion? Give me religion ever time. You know where you are and it keeps the roof on.

Monthly Meat Raffle

Thanks to all who supported the "First Sunday" Fund-Raising Meat Raffle.

First prize was Chicken Thighs. Which I've always thought was a cruel nickname for Burton. But still, he's won some lamb chops. So that should cheer him up.

First Find Your Church - Knowing When to Turn Up

So you've found your church.

Now you need to turn up at the right time.

This can be trickier than it sounds. If you live in a large town then you should be all right. The service1  times should be pretty much the same every week and you can turn up, confident that something is likely to be happening. You may or may not like it – but it will at least be there when you expect. Also - some churches won't be Church of England. Which normally means things will be simpler than if the C of E gets involved.

In the countryside things are different. Most churches are C of E these days. And the days when every village had a vicar, and every church  had a service every Sunday, are long gone. Nowadays it’s trickier. The vicar will have three, four or even up to eleven churches. And the times of the services will be randomly scattered across the month and across the villages.

The normal pattern will be for a church to have one or more services a month, normally at the same time on the same week of the month – so St Ethelbald’s on the Wold will have an 8am Communion every first Sunday, and a 10am “Family Eucharist” on the third Sunday. Meanwhile Holy Cross, Chipping Orton will have its 8am on the 2nd Sunday and an 11.15 on the 4th. The vicar in these circumstances is normally a shattered man or woman, tearing across the countryside to take 3 or 4 services every Sunday, with a phenomenal memory for names and faces. And terrified it might snow.
Come back in March

You may be thinking to yourself – are members of the Church of England the only people that are aware of what week of the month it is? And you may be reassured to know that the answer is “yes”. But even this odd realisation won’t help you with the wonder of what is called a “Fifth Sunday”.

Fifth Sundays of the Month arise every 3 months or so. In some special years you may even be able to fit five in – a nightmare to retail accountants, but they’re not really our problem here so let’s push on. On a Fifth Sunday (always capitalised), if you live in an area where a vicar has care of more than two churches, the people from all the parishes2 in the benefice3  will come together 

Of course, nobody can be prescriptive with these things. You may instead find that the services are allotted randomly every month, or the vicar may have introduced an 8 week timetable, or some churches are so cold and so far from electricity that they’re closed from October to May. Or the plague may have struck. Or, if you're in Norfolk, they may have reverted to paganism and only hold services at the time of the full moon.

So - C of E or other, country or town - your best bet once you’ve found your church is to go to it and find the notice board. Quite often then are stuck up by the wall or the gate to the churchyard. Sometimes, they’re in the Church Porch, behind a locked gate. But sometimes they’re accessible, weather proof, and the rota hasn’t been hopelessly smeared to illegibility by the ingress of rainwater.

You may be best off bringing a friend who has a degree in quantum physics so they can interpret the complexities of the rota. But after ten or fifteen minutes of close examination, you should have worked out when the next service is and can plan your visit...... 

1 Service – a time set aside for worship. In principle it’s the “service” of the people in the church to God. Some vicars assume it’s them receiving the service of the church – or the church receiving the vicar’s service.
2 Parish – an area usually bigger than a street but smaller than a medium sized town, normally with its own church building, that would have its own vicar if any of the inhabitants went to church. Now often banged together into benefices.
3 Benefice – from the Latin for “a good work”. A bunch of churches banged together with vague reference to geography, to the point where there may be enough people to justify paying for a vicar.

Saturday 3 June 2017

Service of Healing for Sergio Ramos

Archdruid: And as we pray for our brother Sergio that he recovers from that most hideous of injuries, and indeed half-expect that we may be needing a raising from the dead...

Sergio Ramos: I'm better now! Cheers!

All: It's a miracle!

The Busiest Priest in Christendom?

Astounded by this announcement in the Church Times:
BUTCHER. The Revd Heather Butcher, Priest-in-Charge of Litcham with Kempston, East and West Lexham, Mileham, Beeston-Next-Mileham, Stanfield, Tittleshall and Godwick, of Gressenhall with Long­ham with Wendling and Bit­ter­ing Parva, of Great and Little Dunham and Great and Little Fransham, of Rougham and Weas­en­ham in Wel­ling­ham, Rougham and Weasen­ham, Team Rector Desig­nate in the proposed Laun­ditch and Upper Nar Team Minis­try, Bishop’s Adviser for Women’s Ministry, and Hon. Canon of Norwich Cathedral, now also Priest-in-Charge of Welling­ham, in Wel­ling­ham, Rougham and Weasen­ham (Norwich).

I knew the Church of England boasted that it had "a Christian presence in every community." I just didn't realise that the presence referred to was Revd Heather Butcher. Thank goodness Godwick is an abandoned village.

Somewhere the ghost of Betjemann considers writing a poem about the situation. And gives up, exhausted.

(h/t to this tweet:


First Find Your Church

A little guide for somebody who might want to consider it....

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

After all – what could be easier than finding a church. There’s one in every town – quite often more than one. Quite often they’ve got spires at one end, things that look like battlements or towers. Just to make them easy to find. Maybe even the word "Church" somewhere on a notice board outside.

Word of warning, though. Just because it meets some of these criteria doesn’t necessarily make it a church. You’d be surprised how many people have ended up accidentally going on a tour of Warwick castle under the impression it was a church. And that really big pointy building near the Thames in London called the Shard is an office block, not a church. Terrifying place.  They had a fire alarm once and orcs came flooding out into the streets of Southwark.

Easy to get confused

And it's quite likely some of your friends actually go to church. Albeit they aren't necessarily likely to tell you that. Christians can be notoriously diffident about being in direct personal contact with the One that created the universe, and died and defeated death. And if you go up to each of your friends in turn saying "do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" you'll be surprised how few friends you will eventually have. So basically - don't count on your friends to tell you where the church is.

So the best thing to do is look online. Some churches have websites – yeah. I know you thought that Jesus had probably banned them from using any modern technology, but we’ve used the printing press (with and without moveable type); the phone (always useful for letting the minister know you’re having existential doubts at 2am); and now even the Internet.

So first up – some warnings about the website. Sure, type your google search in – something like “Church Husborne Crawley” if you live in Husborne Crawley, that is. If you don’t you’d be better off typing something else. Ideally somewhere near where you live. And if you’re lucky and you have the sort of local church that does it properly, you’ll get a really good list of the services they were running last year, who the vicar1  was then, and the plans for Christmas two years ago. This won’t guarantee what they’re like now, but at least you’ll know they existed recently.

Then you'll know that it might be worth going. But that's another day's adventure...

1  Vicar – from the Latin for “a substitute” – strictly speaking meaning somebody who gets paid for looking after the parish instead of somebody else (the rector or the bishop or God or somebody. Don’t ask me. I don’t get it. It’s all lost in 17th Century English society. Don’t even get me started on rectors.  Basically these days by “vicar” people mean anybody who wears a dog collar and appears vaguely plausible.

Friday 2 June 2017

Nativity of Thomas Hardy (1840)

Yokel 1: I see it's Tommy Hardy's birthday.

Yokel 2: Dead and gone as we all shall be.

Yokel 1: I'll take the cake back then.

Yokel 2: Can you smell that air? Is that the sulphurous emissions of London, as it draws our native maids and youths into its evil dance?

Yokel 1: Nay, it's the smell of freedom. Donald Farfrae says he's pulling out of yon Paris Climate accord.

Yokel 2: Paris! That rookery of vanities.

Yokel 1: We'll burn some tyres before nammit tide I warrant it?

Yokel 2: Yea, let us down to the Silent Woman. She's heated by shale oil now.

Thursday 1 June 2017

The Holy Blood

Been a bit low on blogging lately. In fact I've spent a few days in Brugge. Might as well make the most of Europe before we're all banned from it.

Odd little chapel in Brugge: the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Within that little chapel is a vial - a Byzantine perfume bottle containing a cloth stained, they say, with the blood of our Lord.

Though some say it came back from Jerusalem, the odds are on it having been "liberated" from the Sack of Constantinople. Before the Islamic conquest of that city, the Catholic Crusaders got there first.

The devout walk up to the altar in the side aisle, gaze upon the relic for a short time, cross themselves and leave.

I watched from afar. I can't believe it's really a genuine relic of Jesus too unlikely, too undocumented. So I wasn't going to cross myself before it. But I don't want to dismiss someone else's faith. And you never know... So I bowed to the altar and left.