Thursday 30 April 2020

Zoom Service of Dobbing-In During Lockdown

Archdruid: The snoopers be with you.
Keep Calm and Judge Your Neighbours
All: And also with you.

Hnaef: Yeah, I love you to.

Archdruid: Hnaef, will you focus?

Hnaef: Sorry, I was just saying goodbye to Daphne as she goes out...

All: Shame! Disgraceful! Should be shot.

Hnaef her job in the care home...

All: An angel. Quick round of applause? Sorry we let her tyres down for being a reckless disease-spreader. 

Archdruid: Now we are going to join in what we have proved, over the last few weeks, this country does best.

All: Solidarity, Stiff Upper Lip, Keep Calm and Carry On?

Archdruid: Being judgemental about other people. So let us join in the Confession of Other People's Perceived Sins.

All: We went out for our legitimate exercise  / 40 mile round trip to pick up the paper / vigilante patrol / sit in a car on a country lane for no apparent reason yesterday and can't believe how selfish people are. People quite blatantly going to the shops. We had to queue for ages. And some of them weren't buying "Value" brands. Clearly not necessities. So we've phoned the police on them. There was a kid walking along the road and we swear they were going to meet up with all their mates for a Pokemon raid and then the ambulance had quite recklessly parked on the road, and the people in the park - can't believe they'd only been out for an hour, some of them could well have been there for four or five. And in the rain. They'll catch their death of cold if nothing else going out for that long and then the dustmen. Can you believe they're driving around emptying people's bins? Shocking that's going to spread it if nothing does and would you believe the recycling centres are closed? So how are we supposed to get rid of all the pots of paint we've been doing up the house with while there's nothing else to do? Anyway, we've taken some pictures of cyclists quite obviously cycling down the road like they're allowed to do it and we've sent them into the Express who are going to publish them so hopefully we'll have them lynched by the end of the week. But you've got to get out haven't you? Driving me mad staring at the same four walls all day.

Liturgy of Redemption

Archdruid: See you all to clap the NHS later?

All: Oh yeah. We'll all be out standing shoulder to shoulder to support our NHS friends. In fact, we've organised a barbecue for afterwards.

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Wednesday 29 April 2020

The Dalai Lama Writes - The Government is Right About Everything

Hello to all my followers. This is definitely the Dalai Llama and not some bloke in Croydon copying and pasting something written by a Russian. Or maybe one of Dominic Cummings' misfits and weirdos. Definitely neither of those. It's the Dalai Llama and my amazing friend, Jennifer French off the telly. You know. No No No No  it's Ab Fab. That one.

I just wanted to say that anybody who asks how the United Kingdom is on course to have the worst record on Covid19 in Europe is a traitor and should shut up. Especially the communists of the Mail and Telegraph. These people are just trying to do the Government down because they want Emma Thompson to run the country. Everybody knows that the job of  preparation for a major pandemic, which the Government wasn't warned about because they didn't read the email and not because as Laura Consberg said they were too busy getting Brexit done to care about making sure we have supplies - that job was down to a bloke called Larry in Supplies in a depot in Swindon or somewhere.

In fact the Government has done a brilliant job. As can be seen from Boris Johnson rising miraculously from his sick bed. When he was walking round hospitals shaking hands with people, he wasn't spreading the disease to his girlfriend, Matt Hancock, and Dominic Cummings. Oh no. He was walking around healing all those people.

Everybody knows that in a democracy like this Great British United Kingdom, we need a free, critical press no more than we need to think about anything other than where Boris has gone on holiday and getting Brexit done. Not about why Matt Hancock has counted bin bags as PPE and why our Government has done such a poor job compared to South Korea, New Zealand, Germany and even France and clearly couldn't plan their way out of a paper bag, if they'd thought of ordering some. But that was Larry in Swindon again. Not us. I mean the Government. Who are brilliant.

Just remember - get out there on Thursday and clap for Boris. I mean, the NHS. And if you don't, don't worry. We'll get your local Facebook group to name and shame you.

Yours in love and peace

Mikhail. I mean, the Dalai Llama. pp.Jennifer French.

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Tuesday 28 April 2020

The First Ed-Ballsians Would Have Recognised This Ed Balls Day

It has been a strange Ed Balls Day. Perhaps the strangest I can remember.

People are asking, how can we wish other people a happy Ed Balls Day in these circumstances? It all seems so strange. In the immortal words of Boney M, "How can we tweet of Ed Balls, in a strange land?" Gathering via Zoom to bring Ed Balls wishes to each other. Pre-recorded videos on YouTube of people saying "Ed Balls". We are unable to gather for Ed Balls Parties. Ed Balls Barbecues are suspended until the autumn. It was not possible, at 4.20 pm precisely, for men who follow Ed Balls to put on football shorts far too tight for them and indulge in reckless tackles.  So to speak. The traditional Ed Balls Day pub events, where Edballsians drink Ed Balls-coloured Guinness, will not happen this year.

But surely these people are forgetting the history of Ed Balls Day. When Ed Balls Day began, we did not have the Ed Balls rallies that we have today. Members of Ed Balls lodges did not march past Jeremy Corbyn's allotment, playing their Ed Balls anthems. Ed Balls lookalikes did not run through northern streets, throwing fivers around in the way that Ed Balls himself would have done had Ed Miliband not eaten that sandwich.

No, this Ed Balls Day is in many respects just like the first. In those far-off days, Edballians would have typed the words "Ed Balls", in longhand, into Twitter with satirical intent. Other Edballians - so far away in time are we now - would have had to copy the words "Ed Balls" from those first tweets, and append them to the sacred response, "RT @(insert name here Ed Balls)." Even the hashtag, #edballsday, was unknown to those early believers.  As they cowered undercover, those early Edballians were more like ourselves than we realise.

As we meet virtually to remember Ed Balls today, we are, if anything, far closer to the original Eballians than we have been for a very long time. A very happy Ed Balls Day to you.

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Sunday 26 April 2020

St Mark's Celebration

I'd like to apologise for what people may have glimpsed outside last night.

When I suggested to Hnaef that he might like to construct a creative liturgy to commemorate St Mark, I hadn't realised that running around the cottage garden wrapped only in a towel was what he had in mind.

Albeit I don't suppose the towel getting caught on the rose bush like that was really what Hnaef had in mind, either.

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Thursday 23 April 2020

Zoom Worship for St George's Day

Archdruid: Peace be With You

All: .......................................

[Hnaef shouts through wall]: You've muted us!

Archdruid: Oops. Hang on...

Archdruid: Peace be With You

All: And with your spirit, life force or alternative expression of a psychic dimension.

George: Yeah, I've got to go cos she's here, Reg. I love you too....*

Archdruid: George! Get back on mute!

All: Have you shouted at the Patron Saint?

Archdruid: Different George. Where were we?

All: Peace be with you.

Archdruid: And with your spirit, life force or alternative expression... hang on, we're the wrong way round. Let's go from the confession.

All: We are sorry that we have drunk too much, gone on Facebook too much, looked at the news too much, and eaten too much. We were going to write a series of novels, learn Dutch, teach ourselves the piano, lose two stone in weight each and become all-round nicer people. Instead, the lawn is unmown, the walls are unpainted, the spring has gone and we have not recently shaved.

Archdruid: We were told to do something to raise our heart rates.

All: But we've read the Daily Mail and it's not helped at all.

Archdruid: Keep at it, guys. We're doing our jobs.

All: Thanks, Eileen. Can you order some pizzas and wine in the shopping?

George: I mean, a 48 inch bust is all very well, but it doesn't get the dockets in...

Archdruid: George! Will you get on mute! And then stop failing at multitasking!

George: OK, Archdruid. I've just got Sybil Thorndike on green. I can't really talk, because she's here.

Archdruid: I love you too.

Reading: And in those days, Saint George came from Turkey. But fighting dragons was not a permitted exercise, so he stuck to just taking it for a walk round the park. And he had no problems with social distancing.


Archdruid: Stay where you are, to the glory of God and the health of the world.

All: Righty-ho.

* "Lengths" by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore

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Tuesday 21 April 2020

Online Worship - the Beaker Guide

Of the Streaming of Services there is no end. It's a great thing - if you're furloughed it gives your day structure to attend the Daily Services, or the Offices, or whatever it is you are suddenly doing when previously you were writing sarcastic emails about Simon from Accounts. And online congregations, if added together, are now greater than the population of the World, due to people legging it from one service to another. But what are some of the technical terms and hazards we are encountering in these new online worship days?

1/r4 The rate at which the ability to consecrate bread and wine decays with distance. Explaining why you can consecrate bread on the table, but not in Ipswich. Unless you, the bread and the table are in Ipswich, in which case crack on. Or if you're someone who's decided it does work to consecrate remotely. Let the Twitter Heresy Trials continue.

Bonfire of the Vanities - When you've set up your rustic table in the one perfectly trimmed corner of the garden for streaming a service, and your neighbour starts burning tyres.

Buffering - A time for silent reflection.

Canterbration - Trying to work out whether what the Archbishop has said is a command, an instruction, a suggestion or a random musing.

Disavisibility - Realising we should have been doing more of this all along.

Felis Culpa - The cat's knocking things off the communion table while the priest's talking to camera.

Incarteration - When the organist starts playing "Lord of the Dance" and there's nothing you can do to stop them.

Furlongregation - When your lunchtime Mass is suddenly attended by all the people who are normally at work.

Megaphone - A device for holding remote church meetings if the members have never really "done" the Internet.

Mowertification - When your neighbour, having stopped burning tyres, switches to cutting the lawn.

Mute - A fantastic invention that means some Bible study groups may never return to meeting in person.

Novelaunch - When all the books churned out by ministers with time on their hands hit Kindle.

Remotesary - Shrine Prayers at Walsingham.

Remotesolution - If you can't consecrate at a distance does forgiveness of sins work? Do you have to have line of sight?

Saint Mark's Revenge - A naked housemate wandering through shot.

Saying hello to the person sitting next to you - No.

Semaphore - A method of signing a service at a safe distance.

Some said it thundered - when someone forgets they're in a Zoom meeting and gets on with typing up the order of service for Sunday.

Spiritual Communion - No idea, sorry. Ask someone else.

Wave of Peace - What we should probably also have been doing all along.

YouTubenediction - Trying to work out whether it is legitimate to reverence a host that was consecrated and consumed three hours ago, before you found the stream.

ZoomAgape - Encouraging remote-worshipping congregations to have some bread and wine with them when they're watching an online communion. But not, definitely not, suggesting it is anything other than bread and wine when they eat it.

Zoomxhaustion - The tiredness felt by a Methodist who has discovered they can fit in even more meetings, due to the lack of need to travel between them.

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Sunday 19 April 2020

Tody Hitchin Writes - "Let us Throw Javelins in Shopping Centres"

All of a sudden, controversial thinkers are all over the place, thinking the unthinkable, saying the un-sayable, safe in the knowledge that even this government isn't so stupid as to take any notice of them - and then they can claim they were right all along.

So I am pleased to welcome home-grown free-thinker, contrarian and Edge-Lord of the Flies, Toby Hitchin, to give us a view on the freedoms we should be demanding on the other side of lockdown - AE.

As I predicted when the Government first implemented this lockdown, the number of fatalities in this country has stabilised and the number of people in hospital suffering from Covid19 is falling. That this has happened at exactly the time you would expect, is proof that I was right when I said all the fears were overblown. The Government's so-called scientists said that if we did nothing, there would be hundreds of thousands of deaths if we did nothing. This has clearly been proven wrong, as there have been nothing like that number of deaths.  Instead it turns out this disease only affects the old, the Prime Minister, all his friends and some other people. None of whom are me. I reminds me of the Year 2000 so-called bug, where we were told that computer programmers had to  spend years fixing the issue. That there were very few problems when the millennium arrived proved that the programmers were wasting their time.

Compare this to the Land of the Free, where Alex Jones of Infowars has been filmed proving that 5G does not cause Coronavirus, by using a megaphone to blast the alleged virus at his followers as quickly as possible. This is the kind of freedom-loving stupidity that goes to the heart of being a member of a democracy. Yes, the protestors on the streets of various States may catch the virus, go home and infect vulnerable family members who then are terribly ill or die. But that is their right in a free country.

It now seems that, in this country, the Government is waking up to the damage it is doing by belatedly trying to stop everyone dying of a disease. Obviously, their idea of a lockdown being lifted in phases is just more evidence of a nanny state. But we must assume that, at some point in the future, we will all be let out into whatever freedom the police decide we can be allowed. And at that point we must face one of the burning issues of democracy. One I have repeatedly demanded the Government address, and yet they continue to ignore. Why, in what is supposed to be a free country, are we not allowed to throw Javelins in shopping centres?

It is surely a simple case of individual freedom. Why, as a free-born English man, living in a sovereign country that has thrown off the shackles of the European Union, am I not allowed to take a few javelins - my own javelins, paid for with my own wages - down to what may one day again be a crowded shopping centre in my spare time - my spare time, I stress -  and throw them around?

I know what the nay-sayers will say. They will say "Nay". That is, after all, what they do. But to them I say, "Aye". And also "I". I demand this freedom. And the Elf 'n' Safety brigade may say to me, javelins are dangerous. But I put to you this simple statistical fact.

In the last 20 years, there have been no injuries in shopping centres caused by people throwing javelins. But in the same time period, hundreds of people have tripped over shopping bags, toddlers have sustained nosebleeds by walking into walls, and people have fallen down escalators and been trapped in lifts.

And does anyone suggest banning shopping bags, toddlers or escalators? I believe I have made my point. All of these activities are statistically more dangerous than throwing javelins around. And yet only one activity is banned.

So I call on the government once again. Give me back this inalienable human right to throw javelins around in shopping centres. 

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Tuesday 14 April 2020

A Liturgy of 5G

Conducted via Zoom. Some Beaker Folk, joining by phone, may well be using 5G without realising it

Archdruid: Save us from 5G, O God we pray.

All: Because there is a virus throughout this land. And other lands where this is no 5G. So clearly 5G is responsible.

Archdruid: After all, look at all the evidence.

All: We wander through the nations, looking for evidence. But we find none.

Archdruid: Because there is no evidence. I was leading you down the garden path to see how foolish you are.

All: Because the Government, knowing that there is a direct link, and knowing that the NHS is struggling, and good people are dying, has decided they really want to keep this deadly disease going and reduce their tax take and crash the economy and do a load of other destructive things even knowing it has put them and their family members in hospital?

Archdruid: Even though there is pretty conclusive proof that this Government is capable of doing really stupid things - eg Brexit - no. Because there is no evidence. No links. No correlation, let alone causation.

All: But Eamonn Holmes appears to be keeping an open mind.

Archdruid: Then maybe, as the great bard Steve Taylor once said, that's why his brain's fallen out. Is Eamonn Holmes a virologist?

All: No.

Archdruid: Is he an epidemiologist?

All: No.

Archdruid: Is he a biologist?

All: No.

Archdruid: Is he an expert in the effects of the electromagnetic spectrum on the human organism?

All: Probably not.

Archdruid: Is he a bloke whose main skill is sitting on a couch in the morning?

All: Yes.

Archdruid: And that qualifies him does it? Any more than Toby Young's degree in PPE (not personal protective equipment - the other one) qualifies him in understanding an epidemic?

All: We have seen the error of our ways. We repent of our gullibility and will be more sensible in future - prepared to listen to proper scientists and not chat show hosts and conspiracy theorists.

Archdruid: Really?

All: Have you seen this thing on Facebook? Martin's an estate agent, and he reckons that 5G weakens our immune systems on the sub-quantum level and we need to eat more turmeric...

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Sunday 12 April 2020

Beaker Lament for Tim Brooke-Taylor

A giant cat plays on the Duckhenge trilithon, while a Swanee Whistle and Kazoo duet (played from Beaker People's balconies) plays the "I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue" theme tune.

Archdruid:  We're gutted to hear of the loss of Tim Brooke-Taylor. A man whose ability to fake patriotic pride for dramatic effect was the greatest we had ever seen. At least, until Boris Johnson decided he wanted to be Prime Minister. A man who wrote and performed in so many funny things. And so I am cycling on the back of this three-seater trandem bicycle, with Hnaef socially-distanced on the front seat, being chased by a giant Dougal from the Magic Roundabout, to read out the following names of people who wanted to remember Tim Brooke-Taylor.

Mr & Mrs Zforthelaffs. And their son, Hank Zforthelaffs.

Mrs Great-Losse, and her husband: Watt A Great-Losse.

Mr Jack Waistcoat, his wife Mrs Waistcoat, and their son Ewan Ian Jack Waistcoat.

Mr and Mrs Crick-Elwood

Lord and Lady Betweenies and their son, Ian Betweenies.

Mr T. Potte, and his wife Ima T. Potte*.

Mr & Mrs Bennett-That-Makes-Me-Sadd and their son.... Gordon Bennett-That-Makes-Me-Sadd.

And, not crying for Tim, we have Marge and Tina.**

And so as 300,000,34,974,000 grains of the sands of time slip away, and we mourn every single person who has died of this terrible virus, we bow our heads, raise our black puddings to the sky, and say thank you, Tim. This is Mornington Crescent.

In the distance, the sounds of the MCC quire can be heard. 

* You really need to know your Goodies for this one.

** Yeah, and this one.

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Thursday 9 April 2020

The Non-stripping of the Altars

In those churches in the UK where they strip altars on Maundy Thursday, they mostly won't this year.

The Lenten array or purple altar cloths will stay in place.

That heart-breaking reading for Maundy Thursday won't be read, in near darkness, as the service comes to an end after feet haven't been washed and the Lord's Supper hasn't been shared - or, at least, not widely. Not physically. Not all together in one place.

The host won't be displayed among a dozen candles for the Watch to adore.

The Mass of the Presanctified won't happen tomorrow in church buildings.

Many aumbry lights have burnt out, untended. The electric ones are probably still going.

At the deep heart of our faith is an empty space, when the living God incarnate on earth was put to death. The Light to the Gentiles was snuffed out. God's Son wondered where the Father had gone. And the disciples hid because of an enemy they know and wondered what came next.

We also draw into closed rooms, for fear of an enemy we don't really yet understand. An enemy that does not even know it is an enemy-  it's just a chain of chemicals, doing what chains like that have done for billions of years. We do this for ourselves, but also for those we don't even know. There's no shame in not "taking it on the chin". No bravery in taking risks with others' lives. No kudos in defying an unknowing foe.

In the middle of these times, this extended Lent, the sun will still rise on Easter Sunday. And we remember a small group of women who braved the Romans, went out into the garden, and saw an empty space, where a body should be in a tomb.

Take the empty time, fill it with prayer. The buildings are waiting - stuck in Lent. But the Church will still know it's Easter. Christ will be crucified, Christ will be risen. And Christ.... well, far the other side of all this - long after we're gone back into church and swapped purple for white and gold and foreboding for Alleluias - Christ will come again.

Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

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Wednesday 8 April 2020

Keep the Churches Closed

Let's leave it like this
In this world where edge-lord behaviour, as it once was known, increasingly looks like the privileged, entitled, damaging attitude it is - full marks to Michael Nazir-Ali for managing to look like an Edge-Lord-Bishop.

"Open the Churches for Easter",  he tells us in an article I've not read all of because it's behind a paywall and I'm not paying money to bolster up one of the papers that brought us Brexit. It will give people hope, apparently.

Well, forget it. Keep the Churches closed. There will be a day to open the churches. It will be when the "curve" is so flattened that we won't need to keep our socialisation down by 75% to keep the number of deaths down. Yes, people are impacted badly by keeping the churches closed. And the people most impacted will be those who are older, who have less access to the technology that allows others to adore the Sacrament via Facebook and hold church coffee mornings on Zoom.

But you know what? Those people are also, generally speaking, the most vulnerable. They are the last ones that should be encouraged to gather. They are the ones who, by age, are most likely to be hit hard by this terrible virus, and who, because of their age, are also most likely to have those "underlying health issues." And they're also likely to be sharing accommodation with other vulnerable people, or being cared for by people who haven't made a conscious decision to go to church for hope on Easter Sunday but rather thought they'd be responsible and stay home. This idea puts individual piety over charity to our neighbours.

There's no excuse for encouraging vulnerable people out of their houses when they should be, in the American term, sheltering in place. Instead, let those who have the technical capability get together in whatever way. And for the others, let the clergy and people work hard to stay in touch. Phone them up. Send them letters. Check what they need. Wave going past the window. Put worship on the telly - I believe the BBC has a track record of doing this.

But don't celebrate Easter - the triumph of life over death - by pushing up the death rate. Don't give people hope for the future while calculating odds for the present. Christianity is a religion that is compatible with rationality. Don't ignore science and make Christianity look instead irrational, uncharitable - frankly, like a death cult. We can all wait a bit to go into church buildings. Let's not start coming up with exceptions - because that way leads to everyone thinking up their own exceptions.

When we can get back in, let's get in there and celebrate like it's Easter, Ascension and Whitsunday all in one. Let's do that when we know it's safe.

Until then, let's look after each other, and show love to the most vulnerable members of our religious communities. By keeping apart from each other.

Keep the churches closed.

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A Theological Reflection for the Birthday of Jürgen Moltmann

All Beaker Folk (socially distanced while wearing Liturgical Hi Viz) march, 6'6" apart, around the Liturgical Gravel Path in Steel-toe-cap boots.

All Beaker Folk face inwards, and stamp three times.

All: Jürgen Moltmann!

All Beaker Folk (socially distanced while wearing Liturgical Hi Viz) march, 6'6" apart, off the Liturgical Gravel Path and continue with their official one lot of exercise a day.

Please note this Liturgy may not comply with whatever the current Government standards say, or whatever your local police force has decided to interpret as those standards. Do not try this in your own semi-monastic community.

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Monday 6 April 2020

Superstition, Science, Religion and Virus

I notice that the reaction to Covid-19 (Novel Coronavirus) is becoming increasingly like what we recommended back in 2009 when Swine Flu was the major new virus on the block. Though I can't help but wonder whether, if Swine Flu had been just a little more like it was headlined as, the world's reaction to Covid-19 might have been more timely.

Having messed around with drug design for a year during my MA, I have long had a fear and respect for the way in which new viruses can arise and spread. And particularly because, back in the 80s, the flu outbreak that took my attention was the 1918-19 so-called "Spanish Flu" pandemic. Now, I'm no expert, and everything after this comes from my reading - which is all available online.

But there are some terrible parallels. Firstly the racism that comes with it. The 18-19 pandemic was blamed on the Spanish, or on the Germans deliberately spreading it (in fact, there's a reasonable chance it originated in the United States). Now it's the Chinese.

Then there are the people that try to continue with Business as Normal. In the current instance, think Tim Martin, Gammon-in-Chief and Founder of Wetherspoons, insisting that nobody has shown you can catch Covid-19 in a pub. And forgetting temporarily that one of his key demographics - unfit elderly smokers - are exactly those people who need protecting from this. In the midst of the first waves of Spanish Flu, the Americans were still packing soldiers onto boats and sending them to Europe. They held a major parade in Philadelphia to raise money for the war effort.

Then there's the "religion makes you safe" belief. Against all logic and scientific advice, some still try to meet. From the American churches who think it's their right to get together, to Orthodox Jews needing to have meetings broken up in Israel. And the same 100 years ago. At the height of the Spanish Flu outbreak, Billy Sunday preached that they could pray the pandemic down. While people were collapsing with the disease at his revival meetings. He later realised you couldn't.

There's an irony - the reason this virus does what it does, is because the world obeys the rules of Physics. The same forces and laws that mean you can cook your tea, fuss a dog or give some money to a charity to dig a well, inexorably mean that a virus can do its virusy thing. The irony for me is that I believe that God made a "good" world. Maybe "good" is as much about it keeping the rules as everything in the garden being rosy. But that same goodness, consistency, logic - means that scientists can eventually develop drugs, tests and vaccines. Maybe we're being reminded in all this that science isn't always an instant fix. We are so used to faster computers, more channels on the telly, cheaper flights - this one is going to be for the long haul. There are - as yet - no silver bullets. But biology and chemistry will still tell us where to look.

But when the science apparently fails, that's when people fall back on the "odd origins" theories. Influenza is so called because its arising was so unpredictable and mysterious, it was attributed to the influence of the stars. It was a popular hypothesis back when I was failing to design a decent drug,  that influenza gets dropped into the Earth's atmosphere by comets. The 2009 Swine Flu outbreak, and the current pandemic, have both been blamed on deliberate manufacture. While the outbreak of blaming 5G masts for the disease plumbs all the depths of superstition to which people go when religion has been left behind but science has apparently no answers. Because to think that this disease is just one of those things that happens in a world where things happen, goes against all the self-reliance and conviction of human invincibility and progress that many of us have absorbed so instinctively. But that's actually the case. Every now and then a virus does something which Donald Trump may think is "clever", but is of course just a function of the speed of viral reproduction and virus's relative genetic fluidity. And then we have something our bodies either don't recognise, or not as much as we do with the seasonal viruses. And then it explodes.  It ain't a mystery. But it looks like it.

You could argue that the 5G mast business proves that the human condition, in a world after so many have lost religion, has gone backwards or at least has just reworked the same old hopelessness in the face of disaster with a scientific rather than religious one. The Black Death may have been blamed on sin, the Jews or the Turks. But as far as I'm aware nobody burned a printing press on the grounds that the new technology was spreading plague.  And yes, now someone will provide a link to prove me wrong.

Then there is the simple message that social distancing saves lives. It works because it's based on simple statistics. If a diseased person going about their normal lives on average infects 3 people - then reducing social interaction by two-thirds puts the epidemic onto a steady state. Reduce it by three-quarters and it starts to die out. It's no good you figuring that you personally can't be at risk, or can't be spreading - if everyone thinks that, nothing reduces. You are a small statistic. But if we're all added up, the brute force of the numbers does its job. It worked in 1918, and it works today. It doesn't require super science or clever models. It just needs everyone to know their job and do it. And that job, for most of us, is to sit on the couch. Because we need to take our socialisation down even further, to allow those that are key workers to get out and do their jobs.

And as ever there's the sheer bravery of people in medicine, logistics, policing, retail, the military, undertaking. Some things don't change. And some people we need even at the time of shutting everyone else down.

In the past, you'd include clergy for the bravery medal as well. Albeit in times of plague or flu, they would have been causing more trouble than they were addressing. But clergy - at least, the ones I know - are doing their work quietly, sensibly, distanced, through phone contact and networks and the host of Zoomed, Facebooked and YouTubed acts of worship. I'll link to the page of All Saints with Holy Trinity Loughborough, for an example of the simple act of Morning Office done well. And also because I always like to pronounce the town "Luger-Beruga". And maybe there's bravery in clergy knowing that it's their physical absence, not their presence, that's required.  And maybe in the UK one unexpected benefit of this sadness and disruption, will be the re-establishment of daily prayer. I would say "corporate" daily prayer, but that body will be scattered like the grains of wheat in the fields, coming together in Sprit, in truth but via phone lines and broadband.

There's a feeling this Holy Week, as the great cities of the world fall nearly silent, and key workers go to work unsurrounded by the normal bustle, that is fitted to those dramatic readings we use from Lamentation at this time.
 How deserted lies the city,
    once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
    who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
    has now become a slave.
Bitterly she weeps at night,
    tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
    there is no one to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
    they have become her enemies.
But the Exile ended. The captives returned. And Jerusalem once again thrived.  Another lesson from 1918-19 - eventually it went away. The world emerged into the Roaring 20s. And lessons were learned. It's just a shame we have to learn them over and over again.

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Sunday 5 April 2020

The Great Palm Sunday Streamed Worship Mystery

An odd thing happened today.

In order to ensure no buffering or other issues, and present as slick a piece as possible, we pre-recorded the Occasion for Palm Sunday just as the five of us who technically form the household - Young Keith, Charlii, their children and I. Exactly 55 minutes, including a 26 minute sermon.

I posted it up at 11am. And everyone told me how great they thought it was - both those who posted online, and those who I saw at a legally-distanced distance, perambulating the grounds later.  They especially liked the children's activities and the bit where Celestine waved her mock-castor-oil leaf around while shouting "Hosanna". So I know they all saw it.

But an odd thing. All those legitimate, government-sanctioned one-exercise-of-the-day events - everyone went out at 11.29.

I wonder how they managed it? Maybe somebody hacked the service and put it out earlier?

I guess it's just a mystery.

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Friday 3 April 2020

Zoomed Out

Aren't online meetings a brilliant thing!

I mean, in the pre-online days of actually going to meetings, a fair amount of the day would be spent walking between the various locations across the Beaker Community - the Moot House, the Druidical Block, the Stable Suite where we held small-scale worship meetings, the Dining Room and so on. And given I'm part of Druids Together in the South Midlands, I'd quite often be meeting up with the Synod in places as far afield as Bedford, Solihull or Leicester. And that would eat up a lot of driving time.

But now - I've lost all that lost time! From my desk in the Archdruidical Suite, I can Skype, Zoom, Hangouts and Facebook messenger completely without wasteful downtime. I've just got to the end of the tenth online meeting of the day, one after another, and I've only left my chair for assorted necessary functions. I'm just going to post this blog and then it's time for Filling Up of Beakers, which Young Keith will be streaming from the Orchard as definitely-part-of-my-one-allowed-exercise. Then it's Moot, and then we've scheduled a special extra streamed "Howling at the Moon". The advantage of doing this online being that we can even show pictures of the moon when it's cloudy.

I don't know why we didn't all think of this earlier.

I'm feeling a bit tired and depressed recently, though. I don't know why...

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