Wednesday 28 November 2018

We'll Leave it all Tidy

Don't worry about the roof
It'll last as long as no-one steals it.
The memorials are all in their places
Cleaned annually, remembering forgotten faces.
The funeral bier
is still here.
Last used in 1845.
A nice reminder
of when tradition was still alive.
The hymn books are old
But they'll last us out.
And this Christmas we'll put the tree up
For the Carol Service as it always was.
And we'll take it down Twelfth Night
Ignoring those modernists who say
It should stay till Candlemas.
And we won't move the pews
Or install loos.
We won't do anything to offend
Those who are no longer here.
We'll just keep it steady
Until the day we are ready
To move, ourselves, outside.
We'll leave it all tidy
when we've all died.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Church Small Ads

For sale: "Evangelical Theology" by Karl Barth. First page slightly creased. But none of the others.

For sale: four historic altar frontals. Still preserving the original bat droppings.

Free to a good home: Overhead Projector and 325 handwritten acetates in alphabetical order. Handwriting occasionally illegible.

For sale: A 19th Century vicarage. 5 bedrooms, 2 receptions, 2 bathrooms. Retaining many original fittings and the vicar. Please don't tell the diocese. We need the cash.

For sale: "Mission Praise" edition 1. 400 copies. God never blessed the vicar's faith and vision. The vicar blamed God.

For sale: Takamine electro-acoustic guitar. Buyer collects before the guitarist gets back from his autumn cruise.

Are you a spirit-filled church, living life in the light of the good news? Then would you like our vicar? You might be able to sort him out.

For sale: Church PA system. Maybe you can figure out how it works.

For sale: a ton of lead. The PCC thought we might as well get there before anyone else did.

Free to a good home: Hassocks and cassocks, hymnbooks, mattocks and billhooks. We've gone "low church", and the choir and the people that maintain the churchyard have walked out.

To let: 20 pews. We reserve the right to have them back when the vicar who removed them leaves.

For sale: Alternative Service Book.Unused.

Want to support this blog?
Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Unremarked Life

On this day in 1963, Aldous Huxley,  John F. Kennedy, CS Lewis, and JD Tippit died.

I can't remember where I was when I heard that Kennedy died. It was before I was born. Likewise Huxley, which had the further reason for me not remembering because he wasn't very interesting to me, and Lewis.

But I remember where I was when I found out that J.D. Tippit died. I was sitting here just now, planning a blog post on why nobody ever noticed CS Lewis's death and checking my facts in Wikipedia.

Tippit left a wife and three children. As well as being a police officer he worked two spare time jobs as well to support his  family. He also fought in the liberation of Europe. He mattered as much as the other three but is remembered today only by the sort of people who are also tin foil wearing birthers and 7/11 deniers.

Well, we'll light a tea light for J.D. tonight. A man worth remembering because he died simply doing his job, for the city he served, for the family he loved.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Festival of Genre

After this morning's marking of The Presentation of Our Lady confused everyone, we're on more traditional Beaker ground for today.

Bearing in mind yesterday's analysis of a Creationist's inability to understand the concept of "genre", all our meditations will be on "genre".

We're not expecting to learn or grow our brains or anything. We just like saying "genre".

It's great, isn't it?


Tuesday 20 November 2018

Answers in Creation and Evolution

Premier Christianity publishes the 10 questions about evolution that John McKay of Creation Research would like answered by Christians who believe in evolution.
Oddly enough, the answers given aren't from a Christian who believes in evolution.  So, maybe I can help...

1. If the Bible was your only source, would you ever suggest that Jesus Christ used evolution?

The Bible isn't my only source. And it isn't a set of books about geology or, really, cosmology. God has given me a brain and a lot of sources - including the fossil strata I can see in the cliffs of Somerset, the little sea shells in the greensand of Husborne Crawley, radiocarbon and the measurements we can make of outer space.

To be honest if the Bible were my only source, I'd have to assume I were living in some kind of isolation tank, and would have to wonder what green plants, earth, dust, snakes and other people even were. And how I learned to read.

As for whether "Jesus Christ" used evolution, I refer you to Q3.

2. Why do you believe rocks containing thorns are millions of years old? 

Genesis isn't giving me a system for dating rocks. It's telling me something about the state of humanity in this world. We're here to care for it and each other. But every time we try to do things in our own strength we cock it up. We try to seize power thinking we're so clever and yet we constantly get it wrong. "There is no health in us."

But then if I wanted to find the age of the rocks that I found a fossil in, instead of reading a reflection on God's goodness and humanity's ability to foul things up, I'd use radio-isotope dating and comparison of rocks to others with similar fossils. And then if someone came up with a genuine, provable reason why this were mistaken, I'd reconsider the conclusions. Which is what scientists do.

3. Why would you believe that Jesus the Creator used such processes to create the world, and then hypocritically declared it to be “very good”?  (Genesis 1:31)

I'm a bit worried about the use of "Jesus the Creator". I know that the man Jesus is also the divine Word through whom all things were created. But before the universe was brought into existence, Jesus did not exist per se as far as I can tell. So to say that it was Jesus Christ who declared all things "very good" strikes me as implying that Jesus was teleported into this world rather than the union of God and humanity occurring at the conception of Our Lord.

Leaving this to one side, this world is good. It has beauty, the consistency and logic of the Logos himself. It is also terrifying and awesome - a world which knows the same pain that the Saviour bore.

You know, isn't it the case that the Saviour, in dying on the cross, is God kind of taking responsibility for creating a world where pain and suffering and death are the preconditions of a greater life? 

Because I'll be honest, when God (not Jesus) declared all to be good then, even if the Bible is literally and historically true, that good creation included a certain snake. And that weren't good, were it?

4. Why would God use a process which favours the strong over the weak?

I think there are two problems with your question. Evolution doesn't favour the strong over the weak. That's Conservatism. Evolution favours the fittest, at any given time, to reproduce. Let me give you a random example. The tiny little furry vole-like mammals survived while the dinosaurs all died. 

There's gnats all over the place - not least because Burton Dasset hasn't picked up the windfall apples in the Orchard - but where's a mammoth when you need one?

The other is - God uses all sorts of processes we don't think are nice or fair, or where the balance is in the favour of the strong. The Babylonian exile. The death of Jesus - a process that favoured the strong over the weak. The persecution of the early Christians, which spread the Gospel across the world. In fact, we see God on earth most of all on that Cross where the strong triumph over the weak- but then find the victory overturned.

5. How do you reconcile the truth of God's word with millions of years?

By not making irrelevant comparisons. God's word is about God's purposes and our meaning, eternal destinations and our inability ever to fit quite right in this current world. Geology and cosmology tell me how the earth came about, not why.

6. At what point did humans become humans?

Don't know, couldn't know, don't care. As our Lord almost said to Peter about St John, that's someone else's story

7. Was Jesus mistaken?

[Why did Jesus base his teaching on marriage by using Genesis 1 & 2 as literal history?]

It doesn't make any difference to what Jesus taught whether he thought Gen 2 were literal history. The story of the Good Samaritan isn't literal history as far as I'm aware but the moral is pretty clear.

8. How can we trust God?

[Why should we trust God to keep trouble out of the new earth if God created it through evolution, death, disaster and woe?]

According to Genesis, God created a world that had the potential for, and a causal agent of, the Fall - which caused all sorts of problems- in it. Yet that world was "good". I trust God because God's Word entered the world, journeyed with us, and died like we do. That makes God authentic for me.

There's also the slightly worrying thought that, if God were weird, random and chaotic, we'd have to trust God in that as well, because God is God. I don't believe that, however much it make look that way some times. 

9. If evolution is true, then why didn't God simply tell us that?

The 6 days in Genesis are telling us nothing about how the world came about.  But in the middle of a polytheistic world, where the Babylonians thought the world was created after a battle between the gods where a sea-dragon had her body cut in half, Genesis tells us that the true God is one, the creation is ordered and - unlike those religions that compared a pure spiritual realm - the universe is good. Trustworthy, reasonable, capable of scientific investigation.

The Bible also doesn't tell me about nuclear physics, fluid dynamics, viruses or the American continent. But I'm pretty confident they exist.

10. What would the Apostle Paul make of the theory of evolution?  

He was a clever bloke. I'm sure he'd have got it. And like many pre-modern thinkers he was capable of dealing with illustration and analogy.

Sunday 18 November 2018

A Less Religious Christening

Well I think it mostly went well this morning. The family didn't want a "religious" christening, and the Beaker Folk wanted something a bit lively. And so the dry ice in the font was lovely, and the way the holographic laser set-up made a beautiful three-dimensional fountain shame, spiralling above the centre of the Moot House.

The music was well chosen, I thought. Chosen to ensure that the visiting family knew all the songs from their school days. So "Bob the Builder", "The Wheels on the Bus", and "If I were a Butterfly". All played on the pheromone. Not really sure how Burton managed that, and it was a bit disturbing. Simple mistake though. I asked if he could play the theremin.

Hnaef preached the sermon. I say "sermon". He was keen not to use any theological terms, or any religious language that the family and their guests wouldn't understand. Actually, maybe an in-depth comparison of Old English with the C++ programming language was less theological than was actually required. But at least, in accordance with the strict precepts of a Beaker sermon at a baptism, it was only three minutes long and didn't mention God.

So not a bad experience all round. The family really felt welcomed, and I got an invite back to their party afterwards.

During the service, I felt somehow something was missing. Now I've had a few hours' sleep after the party I've just realised. We should have somehow involved the baby.

Want to support this blog?
Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Monday 12 November 2018

That Shameless Plug Time of the Year

As the storms of Brexit swirl about, the President of the United States worries about his hair getting wet and the Spice Girls reunite without Posh, you're probably wondering which would be worse - "No Deal", World War 3, or Spice World 2 - The Revenge.

And it's in these dark times leading up to Christmas that people tend to think "what book can we buy for Aunt Myrtle that is amusing, compact, and reasonably priced on Amazon?

Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is the book for you. Amusing, reasonably priced, and fitting neatly into any stocking. The vicar thinks the congregation is the problem - and vice versa. The congregation drunk has a pumpkin on his head and everyone wonders why children are allowed in the service.  Especially the children.

From Amazon and The Bible Readers Fellowship.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

If You Want to get Ahead, Get a Celt

Exciting archaeological discovery that the  Celts, having decapitated beaten enemies, would embalm their heads for show.

I dunno. That next service "in the Celtic tradition" is gonna be hard to plan.

But it confirms our view about Christmas tree decorations. The Beaker tradition maintains that, when celebrating Yule (or, as they knew it, Loughtanzer), the ancient Celts would hang their enemies' heads from pine trees - making sure to take them down after Twelfth Night. They believed that on the thirteenth day the heads' souls would return and strike the pine tree down with root weevils. And who needs that?

When Christianity took over, it kept the tree but decided the heads were a bit du trop. So the Christians experimented with pumpkins but, realising they weren't actually known in Europe at the time, fell back on inflated pigs' bladders. To those who said that inflated pigs' bladders were hardly festive - especially for the pigs connected to them - it was pointed out that Calvinism was now in, and this was as good as it got this side of Glory.

And so things remained until a German glass-blower, trying to create tinsel that wasn't made from a yard of rats sewn together, accidentally produced a beautiful, round, perfectly useless globe of glass to hang on the tree. And the journey from Celt's enemies head hanging in a pine forest to pointless Christmas decoration was complete.

Sunday 4 November 2018

No Brownie Points

A lot of Beaker Folk asking why we didn't have the uninformed youth organisations at this morning's "parade" service.

It's quite simple. We didn't tell them it was on.

Saturday 3 November 2018

Halloween Weekend Schedule

Beaker Folk have been getting a bit confused about the schedule for this Samhain weekend. So to set it out nice and clearly:

We moved Halloween to tonight, and we will celebrate by burning the Wicker Person  and dancing round dressed as Donald Trump and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Representing those who live in large houses and live off the poor.

We've arranged for our local supernatural terrors to make their traditional appearances this weekend. Black Shuck should be scaring the wits out of unsuspecting drunks about midnight tonight. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn should be dancing in the Big Meadow at 6.30 tomorrow morning. And Hern the Hunter is ever so grateful for the date change, as it means he was still able to get into London during the week to continue his career as a web designer.

Then tomorrow we will celebrate All Saints Day with a New Orleans jazz ensemble. Or we would. But they can't make it. So instead it's the Comb, Paper and Spoons Quartet, with Dolorez guesting on Kazoo.

Then Sunday at 6 pm, we roll through into All Souls Night, when we remember those who've left our presence to go into a more blessed place. We will consider in particular David Cameron in his shepherd's hut, and Nigel Farage with his LBC show. And we will be asking the modern equivalent of the Turing Test: If you are debating with Katie Hopkins or Julia Hartley-Brewer on Twitter, how could you tell if there were a real human being answering?

Which leads nicely into Monday as the first day of the traditional Beaker feast of "Pre-Yule". Or, as we're calling most of November this year, "26 Days of Black Friday". Tea lights will be half price in the Beaker Bazaar, Mrs Whimsey's Doily Company has a two-for-the-price-of-three deal on all multipacks and I'll be desperately trying to keep the bling off the Moot House roof until at least mid-month.

Have a great Transferred Samhain! It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Want to support this blog?
Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.