Wednesday 30 August 2017

The Milton Keynes Statement

Article 1:

WE AFFIRM that marriage is a lifelong, procreative relationship between a man and a woman. And if the man should quietly nip off for a different, temporary relationship with another woman (or indeed man) we will try and keep that quiet.

WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual or polygamous relationship. Obviously all that stuff with David and Solomon having lots of wives was a bit of a mistake. And Abraham and Jacob sleeping with the servant girls. Though God never told them off for it. Yet the Biblical record is absolutely clear. OK it's not. Still, gays - eh?

Article 2:

WE AFFIRM that adutery is wrong.

WE ALSO AFFIRM that any white, male, evangelical leader being caught in adultery can confess and then, once it's all blown over, get on with being a white, male, evangelical leader again.

Article 3:

WE AFFIRM that God created man and women equal.

ALTHOUGH OBVIOUSLY man is a lot more equal. Headship. You know.

Article 4:

WE AFFIRM that God has made man and woman differently.

WE DENY this means one is more important than the other.  Why aren't you in the kitchen?

Article 5:

WE AFFIRM that human bodies fit into one of two categories. Or nearly.

WE DENY that science will have any impact on our thinking.

Article 6:

WE AFFIRM there are some people who aren't made like us.

WE DENY they should be treated as if they are normal.

Article 7:

He who cites John Piper calls the tune.

Paul Burrell "Still Needs to Eat"

The world was shocked to discover, on the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, that her former servant Paul Burrell still needs to eat.

"I was started to run out of press income," said Burrell, "what with it being a long time since the clearly non-suspicious death of Princess Diana - the one we think of as the "Princess of Hearts" and in my case "the Mother of all Gravy Trains."

"And I had run out of things to claim that Diana had told to me, but nobody else. But imagine my joy - I mean sadness - when I realised I had another chance to cash in with a load of drivel I'd get printed in the Mail. And guess what - it's only five years till the 25th anniversary! Surely I can get something out of the Express?"

Paul Burrell then looked a bit sad, but well-fed.

Birth of Mary Shelley

Thanks to Hnaef for agreeing to deliver this year's Mary Shelley Memorial Lecture.

Every year we consider the "Frankenstein Effect" at work - someone who is turned against by their creation.

And so Hnaef will be asking the question, "What is Brexit doing for David Davies's career?"

Children's Songs for an Angry God

Inspired by encounters with an angry Catholic and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. People whose conception of the divine consists of God being really angry with everybody.

Ironically as well as believing that I am going to hell, each of this pair believe the other is going to hell, in effect for picking the wrong side. Which makes me the only one with an optimistic religion, as I believe in divine compassion on all that God has made. This does not make me a universalist - I believe, with CS Lewis, that we can choose to go to Hell because we'd rather not be in the other place. Because something else is more important to us.

In the case of both the encounters I mention earlier, it is fair to say that the thing they reckon is more important than anything else is sodomy. I reckon extreme Catholics and Westboro Baptists think about sodomy more than than the people of Sodom. Sodomy - or thinking about it, at any rate - is a fair chunk of their lives. But I reckon if you're picketing the funerals of dead soldiers, and yet your major concern in life is which socket a plug should go in, you've probably got your priorities wrong.

See I'm prepared to believe God gets really angry about things. Famine, pollution, greed, thoughtlessness, hatred, rivalry, the idea that people with Downs Syndrome are less worthy of life than others. I just think what consenting people do with their bodies ain't one of them.

So anyway. Here's my Children's Songs for an Angry God. By the way, if you're only here for the Children's songs, best not read the passage above. Bit racy.

Our God is an angry God
Our God is an angry God
Our God is an angry God
And he's really rather angry.

If I were a butterfly
I'd deserve to be caught and mauled by a cat
And if I were a wiggly worm
God would hate me just for that.

This little light of mine
Won't get me into heaven
This little light of mine
Won't get me into heaven.

Burn Baby Burn (Disco Inferno)  [Is this right? AE]

Angry Father, let me be
Scared of hell and fire
Help me not to upset thee
Or to raise your ire.

Sunday 27 August 2017

The Parable of the Lost Belgian

Archdruid: Once a hundred French-speaking Belgians went on a package tour to Spain's Mediterranean coast. And it was a hot day. The sun baked down. And the tour guide noticed, as they were all sitting out on the beach, that one of the Belgians was missing.

So she went to search for him. And she left the others in the heat of the noon day sun. And after seeking in every bar, all through the afternoon, she found him and brought him back.

And when she brought him back to the beach, where she had left the others so long, what did she find?

99 red Walloons.

Give us Back Our Religious Sites

In the light of news that the Odinists of Great Britain have requested two churches from the Church of England, to make up for alleged "spiritual genocide", I am hereby demanding the return of every religious site in the United Kingdom to the Beaker Folk.

My argument is as follows: firstly, the Germans weren't "Odinists". They were "Wodenists". Quite a different thing. Secondly Beaker Folk have a sense of "deep unease" about the way in which the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Norse and Danes took our religious sites - already stolen by the Celts, and then the Romans - and converted them into whatever the Wodenists were doing in these glades.
Small child in big hat in front of Westminster
A very young Beaker Person stakes a claim

Thirdly, I have just as much continuity with the original Beaker Folk as modern day neo-pagans have with their alleged forebears. These forebears, being bloody-minded warriors who believed that those who died in battle would go to the Norse / Germanic heaven, would probably take about ten minutes to deal with their weedy, pacifist supposed successors. The Beaker Folk, on the other hand, being pacific, gentle and at one with nature, were inevitably wiped out by the Celts with their cheaty iron swords.

Fourthly, a process in which a tribal race changed their religion to stay in line with their leaders is not "spiritual genocide." It's simple good business. And it diminishes the word "genocide."

Make no mistake. If the Odinists do not hereby support my claim to every medieval church, every
Bronze Age burial site and every stone circle in these islands I'm going to light a tea light.  It could get as nasty as that.

Saturday 26 August 2017

What Are Priests Paid For?

Good article by Zac Koons, "Priests are not paid to do anything".

But I've just been doing some sums.

Most priests are not paid to do anything six days a week.

But some benefices aren't big enough to justify not paying a priest to do anything full time.

Apparently a half-time priest is 3 days plus Sundays.  So that's the priest not being paid to do anything four days a week. The logic of this is that a priest could not do two half-time jobs as it would equal eight days a week. Unless they are not paid to do anything twice at the same time. Or somebody renames Saturday to be another Sunday.

And a "House for Duty" priest is not paid at all, 18 hours a week (2 days plus Sundays).

The logical end point of all this is that if a priest only doesn't do anything 2 days a week they should pay the diocese for the privilege. Somewhere in a diocesan church office, someone is probably already drawing up the job specification.

Friday 25 August 2017

BoJo in Fantasy Land

Boris Johnson has admitted that the UK will have to pay a "divorce bill" to the European Union. He previously agreed in Parliament with one of his colleagues that the EU could "go whistle" for such payments.

Mr Johnson had to leave the press conference early as his pants were on fire.

Arriving at Not Greenbelt

All very exciting this morning. We've all set off en masse for Graham Hartland's alternative Christian arts festival, #notGB.

We set off early thinking the traffic would be hideous on this bank holiday. But in fact, we've got there OK. Unfortunately we're now queuing to get in. We're stuck behind 7 tankers of puckish progressive opinion, and someone has shed a truckload of establishment entitlement on the road. So obviously Giles Fraser has brought all his baggage with him.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Season Change

Can Beaker Folk note we are now in "Greenbelt Season".  We are therefore wearing yellow hi vis until Samhaiin.

Pink is acceptable for day visitors and on Anglo Saxon feast days.

Grace for a Meal of Sausages Made from Pigs Previously Saved from a Fire

Let us give thanks for these tasty sausages. For though all flesh is grass, yet these little piggies were saved from the fire. Temporarily. The rescue operation was very successful. And now these sausages are well done. Amen.

Weekend Weather Forecast

Cool and Cloudy for Scotland - Warm and Dry for England - Pouring rain for Greenbelt

Liturgy for Patronising People Receiving Their GCSE Results

Hymn: Another Brick in the Wall

Archdruid: Let us all humble-brag our poor educational results.

Famous Columnist: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a Famous Columnist.

Twitter Vicar: I failed all my GCSEs and now I'm a vicar on Twitter.

TV Presenter: Failed all mine and now I get to read an auto cue for a living.

Famous Brain Surgeon: I failed all my O Levels but I worked my way up via carpentry

Businesswoman: I failed all my GCSEs and now I'm a successful businesswoman.

All: What about you, Eileen?

Archdruid: 9 O Levels and went to Oxford. Why do you think I'm the Archdruid?

All: No. You're supposed to say you failed and it didn't matter.

Archdruid: Well of course it matters if you fail. What is this? Self-delusion day? Self-publicising day for people who got away with not trying...?

The Archdruid is dragged out of the Moot House.

Hnaef: I failed all my O Levels and...

Archdruid  [From outside] : Liar! 

Charlii: Let us all now praise ourselves...

All: Didn't we do this last week?

"Telegraph" Journalists: Can we take pictures of 16 year old girls jumping around? Is that allowed?

Hymn: School's Out

Stacey: Let us go in peace to big ourselves up.

All: Too right!

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Patriarchy the Way Forward

What a fine piece in Anglican Mainstream on why Patriarchy is the best thing for society!

Clearly, brothers and sisters, I have problems with the early paragraph - referring, as it does, to the Papistical practice of Confession. Since the priest has no business forgiving sins in the first place, why would this even be relevant?

But Chris Sugden is right. The Government is encroaching onto areas of life where it has no competence. I myself, when my sons were young, rigidly enforced the Biblical injunction that we should thrash them whenever necessary, to keep their souls from Hell. But when young Ezekiel was persistently rude, and I enquired of the local magistrates what would be the appropriate form of capital punishment in accordance with Deut 21, suddenly I was "of concern" and the state poked its nose in.

And surely Chris Sugden is right regarding the way in which "easy sex" leads to innocent men being unjustly accused of sexual assault. I will be honest, I do not see any way in which sex could be easy. But that is beside the point. Clearly as we speak there are innocent young men being accused all over the country of sex crimes. My advice to all young men going to University in the next few weeks and being lured by the "hook up culture" into young sirens' bedrooms is clear. Video everything. You will need the evidence.

No, on second thoughts, forget about the videos - just do not be lured into their bedrooms. That will avoid all unnecessarily messy complications. And whatever you do, do not share a train carriage with anyone, ever.

And then Chris Sugden is right about creeping demands for rights. First homosexuals did not want to be killed for practising their hobbies. And, indeed, this was granted. Then they did not want to be imprisoned for them.  Some might regret this, but this was also granted. Then they wanted to get married to other homosexuals.

How much longer can it be, brothers and sisters, before they demand the criminalisation of sex between a married man and his wife? Surely we are well down the slippery slope. Marjory has just asked me what precise practical difficulty this would cause the two of us. But she is always sarcastic around bed time. Witheringly so, you might say.

So the argument is clear. Women, being the weaker sex, need protection from men. And who better to do the protecting than men? You know Father knows best. And when I say Father, I don't mean in the Catholic sense. So stop whingeing, and get back in the cupboard.

The Priest of the Future

Great excitement as a company in Japan unveils the first robot priest able to conduct funeral services.

In Japan, with an ageing population and Buddhist priests having to do jobs as IT managers and what have you, this may be seen as a reasoable option.

But in Britain there will be diocesan bishops looking carefully at this.

A robot priest, combined with driverless car technology, will be able to roam the parishes of multi-church benefices, covering anything up to 12 services on the average Sunday and thereby keeping village churches open - even long after their congregations have all died.

"The words of the Prophet Zarquon....."
Robots are perfect for unintellectual, repetitive tasks. This could include repointing the external stonework of the Lady Chapel, or filling in the latest Diocesan Return on the use of A4 paper.

They never sleep - so can take phone calls from people at any hour of the day or night.

They don't need a Day Off - so feel no guilt when they don't take them.

They will never feel a calling to another benefice.

They can be plugged in to charge up in the church at night, and kill people breaking in with their deadly laser eyes.

When they wear out, their CPUs  and memories can be upgraded and fitted into the chassis of the next model. Thus ensuring that when the PCC says "it wasn't like this in Father Marvin Mk III's Day", Father Marvin Mk IV can say "I think you'll find it was - let me project what it was like onto the wall with my inbuilt audio-visual display apparatus."

Robots need have no doubts, no existential crises. Are never tempted to join Rome or have affairs. Never get drunk and fall off their bikes. Have beautifully impassive faces, whether faced with good news or bad. Treat triumph and disaster just the same. And never have the slightest doubt as to whether they are in the wrong.

There are rumours that the Church of England has been trialling robo-priests in some parishes for the last 20 years. So far, not one has been rumbled.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Bring the Villages Closer Together

A recent short trip to Suffolk makes me reflect on the particular issues of the church there. Take, for instance, the "Benefice of the Saints". Which consists of:
Rumburgh with All Saints South Elmham & St Nicholas South Elmham; St James South Elmham; St Michael South Elmham; Ilketshall St John; Ilketshall St Lawrence; Ilketshall St Margaret; Flixton; Homersfield; St Margaret South Elmham; St Peter South Elmham; St Cross South Elmham.

If you're thinking South Elmham and Ilkeshall have lots of churches for two villages, this is because they aren't really villages. They're actually collections of villages, each one named after a saint.

So the church in the parish of "All Saints South Elmham & St Nicholas South Elmham" is, as you might imagine, dedicated to "St Michael and St Felix."

This is England.

Also being England, this whole patch is covered by an incumbent and one assistant, who also has two other jobs. And it's currently in vacancy. So of your mercy pray for Revd Ian Byrne, who must be shattered.

Of course the congregations in this scattering are small. Flixton, for instance, has a PCC with 3 members. And doesn't have a service this year between Bonfire Night and Christmas Eve.

Now when faced with this kind of thing, some people suggest a Minster Model. This is where the worship is based around the main church, and people are sent out - presumably on bicycles - to minister to the outlying parishes. I've never understood why this helps, or what the point is. Another solution is to close most of the churches. The churches are over-large for this age, and probably for any age - they were presumably built with money from wool, or rubber bands, or whatever that part of England made in the old days, and they were built big to the glory of God and bigger to the glory of the local squire.

But people like to have a church in the village where they live. Even if they never attend. Which leads me to my more radical suggestion.

Move all the houses closer together. Then close the churches that aren't where the houses are anymore, or sell them. The houses will be close enough together that not only will they have viable church congregations, they will also have enough people to support local schools, pubs and maybe even a shop with a sub-post-office.

You could call the clumped-together villages "towns".  I don't know why nobody has ever thought of this before.
If all the people in the graveyard rose, they still wouldn't fill the church

Sunday 20 August 2017

Lament for the Last Bongs from Big Ben for Four Years

Hymn: "Ben" (M Jackson)

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: We lament as we hear the last bongs from Big Ben on this last bongy day for four years.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Surely our entire identity is tied up in the bonginess of these Westminster bongs.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: And if Big Ben bongs not, it is Health and Safety GONE MAD& © - for what is the hearing of a bunch of workmen - many of whom might not even be English - compared to our sense that there will always be an England?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: For if the bongs of Big Ben do not bong us out of Europe, will Brexit really be Brexit?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: If the 6 o'clock news on Radio 4 has just a recording, is it really the news?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: And if people realise that the whole Brexit exercise is a pointless exercise in failing to realise we have lost an empire and thrown away our entire purpose - will they not think we have lied to them in order to achieve a destructive, expensive, pointless exercise in vanity?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Still, we stand, with heads bowed. The Empire has gone and we are just an island and a bit, on the edge of a continent, unable to accept our place in the world. Surrounded by evil foreigners.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Let the French be gone - the Germans retire. Speak through recession, depression and fire... thou still small voice of ....

Big Ben: BONG!

MPS: Thou still small voice of.....

Big Ben: BONG!

Jacob Rees Mogg: Oh! There's nanny! I just need to get off for my lunch,,,

Big Ben: BONG!

Boris Johnson: Oh I say!  That lady over there is rather lovely.  I'd best get on my bike. Woof!

Big Ben: BONG!

David Davis: You know, with all the difficulty of Brexit on my shoulders, I'm starting to realise it's really difficult and sometimes I go home at night and I look at myself in the mirror and I...

Big Ben: BONG!

Jeremy Corbyn: Wasn't that..... ?

Diane Abbott: No, sounded like the right number to me.

Hymn: "Abide with me"

Crumbs for Dogs

A Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.‘ And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15.21-28)
If stories about Jesus were tweets, this might be the one that got deleted later...

Remember the other week when I was criticising a ridiculous Independent article that said the existence of Canaanite DNA proved the Bible was wrong when it said the Hebrews had killed them all? Well, here's a living, breathing Canaanite woman talking to Jesus.  Long after the Hebrews had any means of wiping them out. In the actual Bible. The one that Ian Johnston, the Independent's "science"correspondent, said was wrong because it said the Canaanites were all wiped out. If only the Independent's "science" correspondent understood the concept of research and looking for evidence.

Anyway, did I mention she's a Canaanite?

So this woman is a descendant of the race that Jesus's race set out to destroy, over 1,000 years ago. And to rub salt in, Jesus's name is the equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua". That first Joshua - the name means "The Lord Saves" - was pretty specifically there for the Hebrews. His job, after Moses died, was simple. To go into the Promised Land and commit genocide in the name of the Lord.

In these days, we'd probably pull down his statue.

Robert Edward Lee Statue Lee Park Charlottesville
A statue that is no longer there

But since he's in the Bible we instead put him into stained glass windows.

In our defence, the vast majority of us no longer advocate wiping out other tribes as a means of consolidating power.

The vast majority, at any rate.

So the woman knows that Jesus is one of her race's historical enemies. A man who should see her as an enemy; as unclean. And she's a woman. And he's got his mates with him. A really embarrassing, really tricky situation. Because she's not going to want to go in there and ask him for a favour, is she?

But she does, because her daughter is ill. Of course she does. Which parent wouldn't?

And Jesus refers to her as a "dog".

Shocking words for us. Maybe less so for the disciples. They're good Jews, they know that the Gentiles are - if not still the enemy - at least not right. They worship strange gods. They eat the wrong things. They don't have Abraham as their ancestor. It's a working description and illustration - Jesus the Messiah has come for the Jews, God's family. Not for the others, the ones who don't even have the scriptures.

You know what dogs are like at meal times. They don't know they're different. They know everybody else is sitting round the table, and they're on the floor, but that won't stop them demanding what they want. The desire for food, in dogs, is more urgent than the fear of looking ridiculous.

And so they beg. And they scrape around hoping the kids will drop some scrap, or that dad will be sympathetic seeing those big, sad, brown, begging eyes. And so they stick at it.

And that's exactly what the woman does. With her urgent need, her refusal to give up - and her quick wit. " Even the dogs get the crumbs. And her conception of God's love is so great, she knows even the scraps of it will do for her child.

And Jesus is amazed. And Jesus responds in love. And God's love does for her what her heart's desire was. And a wall - put up a millennium earlier - is broken down.

It took a time for the message to sink in properly with the Church. And, being human, we keep forgetting it.

There is a constant temptation to think that others are not as good. That others are the enemy. That something they are; or something they do; makes them too different. We do it ourselves, in small ways. We do it instinctively. We shouldn't. Because small fears and exclusions lead to large ones.

The right-wing marchers at Charlottesville chanted "Jews will not replace us." Well, here's the news. Jews will not replace them. Jews included them. A Jew, Jesus Christ, died for them. That Jewish man is enthroned in heaven and prays for them. His Jewish mum prays for them to him. The Jews, Peter and Paul and Thomas and all the rest, spread the Good News.

And they spread the Good News of a Messiah who wasn't just for Jews. Who could heal a Canaanite child after all those long years of hatred. Who could pray for the Romans who killed him. Who reaches out his arms to all those - scattered through the world, and through all time - who will recognise in him the world's saviour and their own peace. Even for Jews. Even for Canaanites. Even for Samaritans. Even for us.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Moving the Tea Light Stand

Yes it's moved again. Yes there have been objections.

Apparently the tea light stand has been just in front of the worship focus since Queen Anne's time. If we move it then we are spitting on the graves of our ancestors, and parciculary Archdruid Elspeth, who first introduced the idea of putting small pieces of paraffin wax into aluminiu cases.

For a certain amount of perspective. I invented the Beaker Folk in 2006. Young Keith made the original tea light stand himself a couple of years later. That particular tea light stand, and eight like it, perished in assorted Moot House explosions.

The current tea light stand was made in February. Until June, it was just inside the South East Door.

I'm going to have to move it back, regardless.

It's tradition, after all.

Friday 18 August 2017

Brucie : The Last of an Age

Archdruid: Nice to see you

All: To see you, nice.

Archdruid: What's on the doors, Young Keith?

Keith: "All flesh is as grass."

Archdruid: True, but not as cheerful as I was hoping.

Burton Dasset: Charlii, can you give us a twirl?

Charlii: Sexist.

Burton: Hnaef, can you give us a twirl?

Hnaef does a twirl

All: Lovely Hi vis!

Hnaef: Just something I picked up in Arco.

Archdruid: Life is the name of the game.

All: Good game! Good game!

Archdruid: What do points make?

All: Prizes!

Archdruid: And so we must all reach the end of the conveyor belt of life. And whether we have collected a toaster, fondue set, saucepans or a cuddly toy, we know we must lay them all down and look to the biggest prize of all. And though no-one can know the destination of any other - whether higher or lower - yet we can remember the man who made us laugh and enlivened our childhood Satuday evenings.

All: Didn't he do well!

Thursday 17 August 2017

Liturgy of Patronising The People Getting Their A Level Results

Hymn: Another Brick in the Wall

Archdruid: Let us all humble-brag our poor educational results.

Famous Columnist: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a Famous Columnist.

Twitter Vicar: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a vicar on Twitter.

TV Presenter: Failed all mine and now I get to read an auto cue for a living.

Famous Brain Surgeon: I failed all my A Levels but I worked my way up via carpentry

Businessman: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a successful businessman.

All: What about you, Eileen?

Archdruid: 4 A grades and went to Oxford. Why do you think I'm the Archdruid?

All: No. You're supposed to say you failed and it didn't matter.

Archdruid: Well of course it matters if you fail. What is this? Self-delusion day? Self-publicising day for people who got away with not trying...?

The Archdruid is dragged out of the Moot House.

Hnaef: I failed all my A Levels and...

Archdruid  [From outside] : Liar! Mmmph!

Charlii: Let us all now praise ourselves...

Hymn: School's Out

Stacey: Let us go in peace to big ourselves up.

All: Too right!

Tuesday 15 August 2017

The Garden Bridge : A Requiem

Hymn: Bridge over Troubled Waters

Archdruid: Ave Boris! Pontifex Minimus!

All: Is that real Latin?

Archdruid: I don't know.

Hnaef: Shouldn't that be 2nd or 3rd Declension Bor-e?

Archdruid: But how would you know that wasn't pronounced "bore?"

All: Sounds reasonable to me either way.

Archdruid: Oh, I dunno. We never did dead posh boys' languages at St Mitholmroyd's. I did Technology.

All: And even failed that.

Reading - Eccles 1

Reader:  "Vanity! Vanity...."

Archdruid: Yeah, that sums it up.

Hymn: The Eton Boating Song

Row, row, row your boat
When it's nice and sunny
You couldn't build a garden bridge
with the plebians' money.

Archdruid: Poor Boris laments and cannot be comforted.

All: His bridge is no more.

Archdruid: Where now can Joanna Lumley go to be absolutely fabulous?

All: Oh, she's got a few quid. She'll be comfortable.

Archdruid: So thank goodness Boris won't be allowed near any other vanity projects that will make us all much poorer just to bolster his ego.

All: Look, we hate to tell you this...

From afar comes the sound of treaties being torn up by a floppy-haired lecherous incompetent.

Monday 14 August 2017

Boris Khan't : A Garden Bridge

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

In Westminster did Boris Khan't
A stately garden bridge decree:
The Thames, the muddy river, ran
Through Millwall, Barking, Dagenham
    Down to a frozen sea.
Three hundred meters in the air
were planned to thrill with flowers fair:
There would be gardens bright with planting grand,
Where blossomed many a commercially sponsored tree;
And here were Lumleys, honoured through the land,
Enjoying the privileges of chumocracy.

But oh! that deep unbridgeable chasm which yawned
Beneath the financials of this romantic venture!
And Boris Khan't, Tory, louche, mop-hair adorned
Ensuring Joanna Lumley was not scorned
Needed funding for this ludicrous adventure.
And from this river, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this City in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty funding momently was requested:
To assist which public finance was  sequestered
Like rain fell massive amounts of lolly
for the architects who designed this pointless folly:
Boris thought the cash would flow forever
for those engirdling the sacred river.
For years meandering with a mazy motion
Through city committees the planning schemes ran,
Still searching funding unmeasurable to man,
And still the Thames ran to the ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Boris did not hear
Those who said this was a bloody stupid idea.

Maximilian Kolbe /  Heather Heyer

Bracketing these two together, on the feast day of the former.

Both died because somebody else decided that some people, some lives, are worth more than others.

Did those who first supported Hitler imagine how it would pan out? They wanted to blame someone for their state of affairs. Supported the strong man who would put things right. Ended up with a Catholic priest being put to death by injection because they couldn't starve him fast enough. How, the guard that killed him might have asked, did we get from there to here?

By not recognising the humanity in others. Start with those who having nothing in common with you - once you've dehumanised them long enough, you'll soon enough not recognise it in anyone.

Same way when a bunch of child abusers can rape kids because they're not Muslims, because they're white - passing them around because they think they're worth less than their own kids.

Same way that the EDL and their friends can use those rapists to  smear an entire religion, a whole racial group. To make them somebody other, somebody less important, somebody who must be feared.

And so a racist who went on a racist march for racialist motives with people carrying Nazi flags claims he doesn't want to be called a racist. Well you  wouldn't , would you? That would imply you were the oppressor - being called that might cause a moment of self-realisation when you ask, in the manner of Mitchell and Webb, "Are we the baddies, Hank? You know, us with the swastikas and flaming torches shouting about blood, hanging out with the sort of fantasists who drive cars into innocent people?

If you don't recognise the humanity, the diverse image of God if you think that way, in people not like you - that's when you think driving cars into crowds, driving needles into priests' arms, is a reasonable way to behave. It doesn't start with murdering priests, Jews and gypsies. It starts with that suspicion that somebody is less than you - that that somebody wants your power - and that you'll support somebody who'll do something about that.

I'm not going to claim any moral equivalence between Heather Heyer and Maximilian Kolbe. Because some would object that one is better than the other, because one is a priest. And Kolbe's view of Jews has been a source of controversy in itself. But I can identify the common evil that caused their deaths - a fear of others that leads to making them less than human. As a snowball starts off downhill, and causes an avalanche, so do the smallest put-downs, the tiny fears, that lack of love turn into full-on hatred, death and oppression.

Tomorrow is the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin.  And here life turns the world's injustice on its head. If small fears and hates can turn to a terrifying oppression then here's a story where a small good thing turns to a great one - as one young woman says "yes" to hope and brings joy to a whole world, and the promise of a justice that makes tyrants and oppressors fear. 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his humble servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Sunday 13 August 2017

World Left Handers' Day

I'd like to thank all the left-handed people who came to our World Left Handers' Day service. We were ever so pleased that you all stayed to the drinks party afterwards.

Clearly there's some link between left-handedness and teetotalism.  Still, even though you didn't want to open any of the bottles of wine we provided, the Beaker Folk were ever so happy to pull the corks and enjoy them on your behalf.


Saturday 12 August 2017

The Charlottesville Scream

"One day I was marching against the oppression of white people, the Universtiy was on one side and the good ol' boys on the other. I felt our story of oppression and exploitation was being called into question. The sun of white domination was setting, and the nation turning browner. I sensed a scream passing through my nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. The scream of those who had been in charge, who now had to reckon with everyone else as equals."

Thursday 10 August 2017

Were There Aliens in the Roman Empire?

Controversy has broken out between the academic world and a bunch of conspiracy theorists over whether extra-terrestrial creatures were a common occurence in the Roman Empire, and whether they could have left alien DNA in the gene pool of western Europe.

A noted expert in the so-called "lady in red", Chris de Burgh, said:
A spaceman came travelling on his ship from afar,
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start,
And over a village he halted his craft,
And it hung in the sky like a star, just like a star...
Many alt-righ commentators have doubted the evidence of galactic diversity. One tweeted,

"If there were aliens in 1st Century Palestine how come they haven't appeared in BBC cartoons?"

While another suggested,

"Aliens in a space ship? You'll be suggesting the baby in a manger was God next."

In response, serious historians have suggested that in fact the whole thing was just a crappy 1970s song, played on CDs by department stores that don't have the theological or historical skills to point out the whole conceit is a pile of Roman era pants. Also that - if the best prophecy the aliens could come up with was that 2,000 years later a public schoolboy would rip off their chorus - then frankly they were hardly fit to be mistaken for the star of Bethlehem in the first place. The chances  of aliens having made it to Hadrian's Wall and fought off the Picts with a Martian Death Ray were described as "minimal."

The BBC, in an attempt to ensure balance, had a heated debate between someone who spends his nights on Solsbury Hill in the hope of seeing Peter Gabriel descend from the heavens, someone who believes that the world is flat, and the secretary of the Chris de Burgh fan club. The resultant debate was described in the Independent as:

"You won't believe how Gullible Greg from the Bath UFOlogists burned Brenda the de Burgh fan."

The argument continues. More heat than light is expected.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

The Thinnest Christian Books in the World

Everything a pastor learns from books after they're ordained: A Digest

The Book of Three Readings everybody knows for Funerals, Weddings and Baptisms

Genuinely useful "alternative" worship ideas

Feminism by Mark Driscoll

Sydney Carter's Greatest Hymns*

The Holy Wisdom of Donald Trump

Sunny Days at Greenbelt: A Photographic Journal

Chord Diagrams for Christian Guitarists

Evangelical-Charismatic Theology

Wonders of 20th Century Church Architecture

The Book of Three Hymns Everybody Knows for Funerals

The Book of Three Hymns Everybody Knows for Weddings and Baptisms

Case Studies of Growth in Liberal Churches

Modern Christian Controversies that Don't Involve Sex

Christian Voice's Little Book of Calm

Anthology of Rowan Williams's Comprehensible Sentences

* technically a leaflet. Printed on one side only. With no hymn words on it.

Service for the Death of Glen Campbell and the Cancellation of Count Arthur Strong's TV Show

So that was a fraught, sad service. And very confused, as people weren't sure whether they were sadder about the death of a much-loved and world-famous singer, or the cancellation of a TV show about a confused imaginary music hall artist.

And "Witchita Lineman" wasn't the best-played hymn we've heard this year. Rodrik's claims that "It's really hard to play a G minor" were getting annoying every time we waited for him to check the fingering and play six buzzing strings.

And then the bit where a bunch of angry lions invaded the Moot House, and we had to rescue a couple of Beaker Folk. I'm pleased to say there was nothing more than some light mauling ,but it was touch and go for a while. If that Rhinestone Cowboy hadn't appeared from nowhere, and been chased out the Moot House, it would have been much worse.

Anyway, it's all over now.  We're all sitting in the Dining Room, drinking soup in our pyjamas. I've got asparagus. Which is an odd flavour for pyjamas.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

If Clergy Ads Told the Full Story

The "Bloodletting Benefice" seeks a House for Duty Priest.

Basically we need you to do a full time job. Patting the hands of those needing comfort. Refereeing the internecine warfare at PCCs. Running the four building projects that are going at any one time. But cheaper.

The Benefice has 7 parishes with no interest in working together. Which means you get to take seven services every week. Forget having "Everyone Together" services every month. The last incumbent tried that. Lost an eye to a well-aimed hymn book.

You may be a priest reaching the end of your career in an urban parish, dreaming of Dibley. We'll happily put you out of your misery.

And don't imagine you'll be able to cycle from appointment to appointment between parishes like you're Father Bloody Brown or something. You'll need a decent set of wheels to get round the place. Ideally a 4x4 as it can get a bit treacherous in winter. And just because even the snow plough can't get through is no excuse when Doris is expecting 8am communion.

There is a Church of England school in the benefice. Unfortunately, the head teacher is an ardent Dawkinsian with a pathological hatred of people in dog collars.

Obviously we're looking for a dedicated visionary, able to energise our mission and enable outreach to the community. We just can't afford to pay for it.

You will find this a rewarding and fulfilling end to your life. Sorry, career. Career.

An Injustice : Count Arthur Strong

Is it not the purpose of those of us who see a better future, a new world, a new hope, to speak truth to power? Today I am prepared to speak prophetically to oppose an injustice.

The BBC have decided they will not do another series of Count Arthur Strong on the TV.

For those who have not seen it, the Count is the funniest thing the BBC has produced in years. Brilliantly written, with characters as lovely as they are surreal.

The relationship between Arthur and Michael is as old as the hills - a straight riff on the Steptoe / Harold or Del Boy / Rodney theme. The older man's self-centredness constantly frustrating the younger one's attempts to find happiness. The relationship between Michael and Sinem is utterly baffling.  What, we ask ourselves, does the geeky, shy, balding Michael possibly see in intelligent, dark-eyed, funny, outgoing Sinem? While Eggy, John, Birdy, Bulent are a fine bunch of supporting characters.

The Count himself is an ineffable force of nature. Incoherent, self-important, utterly unaware of the chaos he sows around him. The incident where the gang are in a car in a lion enclosure at the safari park - where the car is on fire - is one of my favourite moments on TV. You'll have to watch it. If the BBC ever repeat it.

So I repeat. This is an utter injustice. The Count is no more, while Mary Berry gets another bloody cooking show. A light has passed from our lives. It may never be lit again.

I may need to organise a soupover to get over this.

Monday 7 August 2017

Why Lazy Comics aren't very Funny about Religion

Tez Ilyas making some really good points. If anybody saw Marcus Brigstocke a couple of years ago - this is exactly what Tez Ilyas is talking about

Help for Heroes Fund Raising Plug

This month I'll be pointing you in the direction of two good causes. Of course being loyal followers of this blog you'll already be giving generously to various godly works. But should you be looking for somewhere to put a few quid to help others....

At the August Bank Holiday we will be encouraging people to contribute to  (or at least follow) Graham Hartland's "Not Greenbelt" virtual festival in aid of the Big Issue Foundation.

Burton Dasset did consider it, but realised he'd probably pass out after 30 miles. So if you can help, thanks.

Sunday 6 August 2017

Called to the Regions

As the Bishop of Burnley suggests that Church of England ministers are "called" to places with trendy coffee shops in the south of England, we ask the important questions:

  • Why has a bishop who was previously a vicar in Camden presented all of London like it's posh?
  • Who can afford trendy coffee on a Church of England stipend?
  • Apart from utter saints, who wouldn't prefer to serve a parish where you don't get the vicarage burgled every Friday?
  • Why is everybody in the Church of England so posh?
But to help every ordinand or curate reaching the end of their training with selecting their calling, we're happy to present this map of England.  Hoping it helps.

London: Check the Postcode. E Mids: Towns are OK. East Anglia: Huge benefices. W Mids: Brummies. Southern England: quite nice. South West; Called to retirement North: Working Class People NE: Too far. No data.

Deepening the Anglican Divide

Thanks to Sara Batts on Twitter for pointing out the lead picture in this Guardian article, "First Same Sex Marriage Deepens Anglican Divide", has more depth than a Magic Eye picture.

The first thing you think is that the two good-looking chaps are meant to be the happy couple. Then you realise that this is the sub-editor's little joke, you're meant to think that, and it's actually the Archbishop of Canterbury and a fellow bishop.

Then you hope they aren't holding those crosses up in the hope of repelling gay people, on the assumption they are like vampires. After all, there's been some pretty odd assumptions made about gay people over the years.

Then you wonder why Justin Welby has a shorter cross than everyone else.

And then you figure you should stop reading too much into out of context photos.

But still. GafCon is kindly sending a bishop to Scotland in an attempt to keep marriage heterosexual. I'm not sure what this activity would entail - setting up a small, evangelical sect of disaffected members of the Episcopal Church might be highly effective in terms of making a noise and getting publicity, while simultaneously letting the Piskies get on with things. While creeping into Episcopalians' bedrooms late at night to check their marriages are indeed heterosexual - maybe handing out something like an MOT certificate - is a bit extreme.

Mind, the Scottish nation would probably appreciate having a breakaway Protestant church, for the novelty. As it's not something they've ever had before.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's language is interesting however. He says the problem is "intractable." The Cambridge dictionary defines that as being difficult or impossible to solve. If the former I suppose that some more talking reasonably, while people ordain alternative bishops in the UK, might be an option. If the latter, I suggest a letter from the Western churches to GafCon saying "love you but can't live with you." Even heterosexual marriages can break down.

Saturday 5 August 2017

A Druidic Dynasty

Congratulations to Charlii and Keith as they are expecting a brother or sister to Celestine

If it's a girl they're going for Caroline. If a boy, either Terry or Elvis.

Friday 4 August 2017

The Leaving of London: Peak Guardian

And so the end of days feel we have laboured with these two years becomes all too real as we face the terrible fact that the population of London is decreasing.

And there are many reasons why. London is hideously expensive. You have to sell a limb to buy a decent gin and tonic. The property bubble is leaving acres of empty prime apartments. To live in Central London you have to be either a multi millionaire or seriously poor. There is a tendency for companies to move out.  And Brexit will lose us City jobs and EU agencies.

But the Guardian has identified a lack of culture. Because if you have a choice between spending 2 million for a house in Highgate, or an eighth that in Leicestershire, the thing that makes the difference is whether the Corbynist Mime Collective is still going in Camden.
Near Regents Park, an outside pulpit costs £1,000 per week to rent

Apparently 400 venues have closed in London. Well nightclubs and their attenders are plummeting rapidly.  I mean, obviously the sorts of people that attend nightclubs tend to plummet - mostly around 3am when they lose control of their heels. But they're not even going to the trouble of all that pre-drinking, queueing up, fighting off harrassment and dancing round handbags. In Taunton for instance, both nightclubs have had to abandon their strict "no agricultural smocks" rules in the face of declining attendance.

The conclusion of the article, of course, is not that if only we had more independent breakfast shops and Taiwanese dance collectives, London would not be draining population. No, turns out the real solution is to get more livable property prices. Funny that. Turns out it's not culture at all.

The Guild of Obstructionists

Received the inevitable letter from the Guild of Obstructionists about my proposed changes to the Moot House. Apparently that Dali painting of the Crucifixion is "a much-loved image that to many is the most important focus within the Moot House. It is important that we preserve the Moot House as it has been loved for generations.

The fact that Young Keith only put the picture up last Tuesday has been somewhat glossed over.

This being the 9th Moot House since 2006 - its predecessors having been accidentally blown up during acts of unwisely creative worship - that is ignored too.

They're a smelly bunch, the Guild of Obstructionists. I don't say this to be rude. It's just they won't even change their underwear without a series of meetings, a public enquiry, and the go-ahead from the Victorian Society.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Stonehenge Wilts - But Somerset Shines

Willerby have announced the best and worst counties and regions to retire to.

Leaving aside that I've no idea what Willerby do, I was fascinated to see their bigging up of the beautiful region of the South West - home of so many Beaker relics.

Beaker relics, Somerset Museum

But I think Willerby are overdoing it with this bit of salepersonship:

"Home to sandy beaches, the great Dartmoor moorlands and the prehistoric Stonehenge monument, it was the South West of England who came out on top in our analysis."

Stonehenge is in Wiltshire, of course. And Wiltshire came... erm...6th worst as a county. Not as bad as Bedfordshire, it has to be said. But still. You can't big up a whole region on the basis of a feature that's in a county that is letting the whole region down.
Stonehenge - Nice, but would you retire here? There's no roof.

But then .I just don't see that Stonehenge is an attraction to living somewhere. How often can you see it before you get bored? Let's face it, even the Beaker Folk only went there once a year.

So my suggestion is this. Based on Willerby's analysis, the best bet is to live in Somerset.

And then just nip over the border to see Stonehenge once a year or so.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Evening Service for Yorkshire Day

Hymn: Ilkley Moor Baht 'At

Archdruid: And so we mark the end of this Yorkshire Day by hitting mini Yorkshire Puddings with a stick of rhubarb.

Geoffrey Boycott: My nan could do that.

Archdruid: And release the Scape Whippet.

All: Aah.

Archdruid: Which is full of Yorkshire Sin.

All: Boooo.

Archdruid: Such as mocking the ancient Yorkshire gods, Earnshaw and Sam.

Earnshaw: I'll be shaping up at midnight on Ilkley Moor wi' sensible walking boots.

Archdruid: Or going to London.

Billy Fisher: A man could lose himself in London, Mr Shadrach. Loooooooooose himself.

Ghost of Keith Waterhouse: That'll be £74.22 for royalties.

Reading from the Prophet Bickerdyke

Archdruid: And so as we down our Tetley's Yorkshire Bitter

All: Brewed in Northampton

Archdruid: We remember all the things Yorkshire has given us

All: Poverty, smugness, terrifying women and hopeless blokes who get drunk at the weekend to recover from the awfulness of their daily lives.
A Yorkshire Shrine

Hymn: "Woollen mills of your mind" (Roy Clarke)

Archdruid: And so we push the Oldest Man downhill in a bath tub.

Hnaef: Am I really the oldest?

Archdruid: No. But you really are the most idealistic, which is how we got you in there.

Hnaef: By eck.

The Yorkshire Creed

All: Hear all, see all, say nowt,
Eat all, drink all, pay nowt.
And if ever tha does owt fer nowt
Always do it fer th'sen.

Hymn: Wuthering Heights