Saturday, 21 May 2022

Do You Want to be Healed?

So there's a footnote to the passage in John 5 which, if you're reading the King James version is verse 4.
And it tells us that the pool at Bethesda, every now and then, was stirred by an angel. And when the water was disturbed, then the nymph Salmacis would come to the demigod Hermaphroditus and...

Sorry. I've got John's Gospel and a Genesis song confused again, haven't I?

But it's a reminder of how deep - ho-ho - our sense of the beauty, the holiness, the strangeness of water is. When I consider the remarkable engineering works of the Fens I think to myself - that was an act of desanctification. A use of brute force and human logic to make the water obey. Look, we shall cause rivers to run above the fields. We shall make water run uphill. We shall dry up the Naiads' homes. We shall drive Will o' The Wisp from his marshy fastness. We shall exert dominion over the land.

But here we have this magic healing pool. Where every day for 38 years this man has come on the off chance he will be healed. Thinking that in the unlikely event he's first in, in the unlikely event that the water is disturbed - maybe he'll be healed.

38 years of someone dropping him off - as if he can't get into the water, I'm sure he can't get to Bethesda unaided - and then leaving him there all day. 38 years of someone collecting him on the way back from work.

38 years of thinking, if I do get into the pool, and if it doesn't work, I may just drown.

And so the question Jesus asks - do you want to be healed?

I met an old Londoner once. He was a teenager during the Second World War. At the end of the War, taking advantage of the new opportunities that peace brought, he took up burglary.

He wasn't a very successful burglar. He was always getting caught. But he stuck at it. In the 50s and 60s he'd hang out on the fringe of fashionable London. He'd note when the minor celebrities he knew were out - then go round their places and burgle them. He'd always get caught. And go back inside.
 
When I met him, he'd been pursuing a career of theft and repeated incarceration for 50 years. He didn't seem over-sad with his lot. The thugs left him alone. He was a kind of Blanco character, for those of you who remember Porridge. He had a little room he didn't have to pay rent for, he had order and a schedule. He liked to come along to the chaplaincy group. Though maybe he didn't listen too much to the eighth comandment. He was comfy in prison

Maybe this chap's the same. Maybe he knows his life isn't going to change. Maybe he knows he's stuck in this routine for the next number of years. Maybe he's quite resigned to what he's got. Maybe that's why Jesus says to him, "do you want to be healed?"

Maybe that's why he doesn't answer Jesus with "yes", or "no", but with a complaint. "I never get in the water in time because nobody helps me." Maybe he doesn't realise this is an offer from Jesus. Maybe he thinks it's just a general enquiry. Maybe he thinks Jesus is suggesting he doesn't try hard enough - so he has to explain himself. 
 
Or maybe he thinks Jesus is patronising him, and he's choking back the frustration - "Thirty-eight years of laying by this pool, hoping to be healed. Thirty-eight years of getting nothing. When shepherds were turning up at your stable, young Rabbi, when you were a baby in swaddling clothes - when you were still the intense subject of your step-father's suspicion - all that time ago - I had been coming here, and getting disappointed, for five years. What do you think, do I want to be healed?"

But after 38 years, maybe he's settled for his role as eternally disappointed man by the pool. Or maybe he's told himself he has.

"Take up your bed and walk," says Jesus. And while that's a command - maybe the man's being made whole still depends on his response. I say "made whole" - because healing's beyond just the bodily. Some of the people I know who have disabilities are the wholest people I know. But this man has sunk into a comfortable failure. As Jesus says "take up your bed", the man has two choices. To take up his bed, or to conclude he cannot take up his bed.
 
So is he going to accept God's grace? A free offer of healing from Jesus? An unasked for, unexpected blessing? Or will he shrug, say good things never happen to him, and settle down to watching for another ripple in the pool he will never get into in time?
 
He takes up his bed and walks. Turns out, he does want to be made whole.
 
You know what a story about Jesus's healing is not? A recommendation for people to go our and demand to pray for others, who have often been prayed for a thousand times before whether they liked it or not. Healing may happen - but when it does it's rare. People with disabilities are not there to make other people feel happy about their own faith.

What this story is though is about what Jesus offers to all of our lives. We can get in our rut. Want nothing to change. And yet - God's grace here is given free - the man hasn't even asked it. It's been found unexpectedly. And it is beyond what he could ever imagine.


Thursday, 19 May 2022

In Memoriam: Vangelis

Theme from Chariots of Fire plays. Beaker Folk fail to jump over hurdles. Mayhem ensues.

Archdruid (drinking glass of champagne): See, Hnaef - I told you not to put them on the hurdles.

Hnaef (drinking glass of champagne): Shall we run around the jolly old court before the clock has finished striking 12 doncherknow doncherknow?

Scene from Chariots of Fire when Nigel Havers goes over hurdles with champagne glasses
Definitely not a stereotype

All: Wasn't that Harold Abrahams did that?

David George Brownlow Cecil, 6th Marquess of Exeter KCMG OLY: No. It was I, David Lord Burghley. As thinly disguised and portrayed by all-round toff, Nigel Havers.

Charlii: Oh - I thought that was Hugh Boneville?

Nigel Havers: No.

Young Keith: Or Stephen Mangham?

Stephen Mangham: Don't be silly. I was 12 when it came out.

Hnaef: Or Colin Firth?

Alison Steadman: Oooh! Mr Darcy!

Burton Dasset: Jeremy Irons?

Daphne: I thought he was also Nigel Havers.

Archdruid: Can we get back to Vangelis? 

All: Let's 

Archdruid: So we say goodbye to Vangelis, and pray that he will always be together in Electric Dreams.

All: That's Giorgio Moroder.

Archdruid: Ah yes. Then let us all pray he finds his way home.

A time of speaking in far-ancient tongues

Archdruid: As it is written in the Book of Jon and Vangelis, if you're asking me when, I'll say it starts at the end.

All: We drift to heaven bringing in the morning light

Archdruid: And after all is said and done

All: There's only us we can make it right

Archdruid: So, our love will carry on and on

All: Now, our love will be free, be free

Archdruid: And so we set pray Vangelis will be set free to know Divine Nature

All: Super Nature

Archdruid: The supreme gift of knowledge and space

All: In this cacophony of life 

The Peace

Archdruid: Peace will come 

All: Peace will come 

Archdruid: Peace will come 

All: Peace will come

Archdruid: Peace will come 

All: Peace will come 

Archdruid: And we hope Vangelis will see the light of..

All: A true horizon

Archdruid: Do you reckon this is a bit niche?

All: Dunno. Best ask the Friends of Mr Cairo.

Archdrduid: Do you know where they are?

All: Last seen on the Mayflower.

Archdruid: Mayflower, do you copy? 

Blessing of the Mayflower

In the wind, on the ship, a lullaby
We sailing pass the moment of time
We sailing 'round the point
The kindly light, the kindly light.
 
Archdruid: Go, Vangelis, sailing through the waters of the summer's end.
 
All: And also with you.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

"A New Commandment"

How would you describe the history of the Christian faith? A small group of believers, who were convinced that - against all logic, science and sense - their leader was alive, whose conviction was so great that they were prepared to die themselves for this claim. And even though the forces of an empire were against them - and even though you were better off socially and economically if you stuck with the established religion - yet the power with which they told people about their leader was such that they spread like cow parsley in an ornamental border. After 2,000 years of persecution - by others, of others, and of each other - the followers of Jesus eventually reached the point where they could hold church meetings that could spend hours discussing what power replacement light bulbs they should use in the church toilets.

Something gets lost, and has to be rediscovered over and over again.

And it's not the structures and attitude of the early Church. We have Paul to let us know that the early Church was as prone to argument, selfishness, and sheer silliness as we are. When church groups claim they are trying to reproduce the early Church - which early Church are they considering recovering? Galatia or Corinth? That's why the Primitive Beaker Folk sect have such a problem. How can you go back to a Primitive Beaker Christian movement that existed before Jesus himself walked the earth? A lot of imagination, obviously.

And yet we know we have constantly to be called back to our roots. Called back to what we fundamentally know forms the basis of our faith.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34) 

Now, "love one another" is in one very important way not a new commandment at all. When you consider what is called "The Golden Rule", do to others as you would have them do to you - that's all over the world's religions. And that's pretty much the definition of loving one another. The "Second Commandment" as defined by Jesus is there  in Leviticus 19:17-18: "Love your neighbour as yourself." So what's new?

"As I have loved you".

How has he loved us?

All the way from heaven to earth. Because Jesus's love is not just like our love. It's the love of God the Son giving up all rights to become one of us. A human like us. Not a god in disguise - the actual God who is actually a human.

All the way to a cross. Because "love one another as I have loved you" is not just about being nice. Jesus's love for us is in the end a total sacrifice. And I struggle to define how that love as sacrifice works. There are so many models for it, and yet not one can capture the sheer depth of what Paul called "a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks." But the idea that things can only be made right when a god dies is written deep into our human condition, I believe - scattered across so many religions in fragments of truth as gods die. And this God dies with our names carved in his hands - the death he did not deserve, the love we did not deserve.

All the way from the cross to the dead. Not just dead as in a human body devoid of life. Beyond that. When the Apostles' Creed declares, "he descended into Hell", I take that to mean - the completion of that cry on the cross, "My God, my God - why have you forsaken me?" The separation from the Father - the loss of that relationship that Jesus had known naturally his whole life, a life lives as the man who was also God. And so "he dscended into Hell."

But as the Roman soldiers took the cross down ready for its next victim, and the demons crowed in victory, the discovery was made in Hell. Jesus had smuggled God in even there, hadn't he? 

Now, I know some people believe that every word of the Bible is literally true. But when King Hezekiah said "Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness", as quoted in Isaiah - he didn't know everything, did he? Would have been better off listening to King David:"even if I go down to the depths, you are there."

How has Jesus loved us? All the way to an empty grave. Beyond all hope, as the bravest of women weep as they approach their teacher's tomb - and they find there is nothing there. In the midst of death, Mary Magdalene finds life.

So we are called - as we always are with Jesus - to an impossible standard. How can we ever love one another as he has loved us? Well, then in that case we know how to love - as if others are our neighbours, knowing that Jesus's love is measured in its costliness, its generosity, and its power. And knowing that what love we give comes from God. If we love one another, simple as that is, then we are sharing in the love that the Father has for the Son. Sharing it out as the Spirit uses us. Being remade in the image of our three-in-one God who loves us, has always loved us, and will always love us. That other book with John's name on it says, we love because he first loved us. So we we are called to love other people with a love that is a reflection of Christ's love, as moonlight is the reflection of sunlight.

That's all a long way from most of what our behaviour as Christians tends to be about. So if we are to love as Christ has loved us, we always need to start with repentance - with turning from what we'd often rather do - bitch about each other, score points - and look again and again at how Christ has loved us. To love is not - as CS Lewis said in the Four Loves - a safe place. To love makes us vulnerable. Well, see Jesus on a Cross. To love means to care for the good of those we don't like - well, Jesus died for people who hated him. To love means to be caught up in the love God gives, and to share the love God gives. Well, that's a taste of the immortal. If we are sharing God's love, we are preparing ourselves and others for heaven.

"As I have loved you, so you must love one another." It's an impossible command. But it's the one to live.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

The Diary of a Mocker

With the flatterers were busy mockers
 who gnashed upon me with their teeth.
(Psalm 35:16)


5 am - Alarm goes off. Showered and brushed teeth ready for a big day's gnashing.

6 am - Gym and wild swimming

7 am - Train into Town. Mocked on train.

8 am - Breakfast at desk. Gnashed teeth.

9 am - Pre-meeting meeting with the flatterers. Did some mocking.

10 am - Gnashed teeth.

11 am - Engineered takeover of multinational.

12 noon - Lunch appointment. Mocking.

1 pm - Gnashing teeth.

2 pm - Meeting with flatterers.

3 pm - Mocking.

4 pm - Gnashing teeth.

5 pm - Wash-up meeting with flatterers.

6 pm - Gnashing teeth at The Union.

7 pm - Train home. Gnashing teeth at commuters.

8 pm - Mocking taxi driver. Home.

9 pm - Evening Gnashing.

10 pm Last mockings.

11 pm Bed.

Monday, 2 May 2022

The Broken Ground of Being

Archdruid: And so, as we relight the Eternal Flame after Saturday's intervention by the Buckinghamshire Fire Brigade, we know the depths of the light of the universe that enlightens the human mind...

Young Keith: Mum, can I ask you something?

Archdruid: You have to call me "Archdruid". We're on duty.

Young Keith: OK, Archdrduid - can I ask you something?

Archdruid: Course you can. I'm your mum.

Young Keith: It's just... you know how everything we do is a metaphor and about lifting us up or expanding our vision or increasing our knowledge of creation or something?

Archdruid: Of course. We're a religion.

Young Keith: Well, what if there's something behind it?

Archdruid: How d'you mean?

Young Keith: I mean, suppose God - and I use this word itself in a metaphorical way because after all, how can we use the word "exist" in relation to the very ground of existence? I mean, to say God exists is kind of meaningless because if God exists all existence derives its very existence from God such that you cannot meaningfully say God exists... 

Archdruid: Cut to the chase, Keith.

Young Keith: Suppose God actually exists?

Archdruid: Exists?

Young Keith: Is actually there. Not as a hypothetical that forms a kind of language we can use to imbue our universe with meaning, but as the actual Meaning that imbues our universe in the first place.

Archdruid: You mean, exists?

Young Keith. Yes. In such a way that asking whether we say "he", or "she", or "they", or "God" for God is in itself meaningless because God is beyond our concepts of existence and even to try to apply objective terms to God is to break the mystery down to the mundane?

Archdruid: You mean, exists?

Young Keith. Yes. And cares about what we are up to.

Archdruid: Seems a bit unlikely, doesn't it?

Young Keith: But suppose.

Archdruid: Think I'd better light some more tea lights.

Young Keith: I'll go and lay some pebbles out. Sandstone or limestone?

Archdruid: Sandstone. Gotta be authentic.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

The Scorching Bards of May

OK that was quite a Beltane celebration.

In keeping with the Beaker tradition, the Wicker Person was built on the Upper Meadow. But yeah, a bit close to the Orchard. Some would say. And given the oil price crisis, it was agreed we would use all the Maundy Holy Oils we've been "recycling" for the last few years.


I don't really know how it started. But it comes about because of the annual Anglican oil-blessing that happens at their Maundy Thursday services. The bishops bless three lots of oil - healing, chrism, and the other one. And then they dish it out to the clergy in little vials. And the little vials have little labels on them so the clergy know which is which - "H", "C" and the other one. And then the sticky labels fall off. So the clergy can't tell which is which. And can't remember which smells nice. So they stick them all in the same bottle and use it for everything for the rest of the year.

And 12 months later, they've got half a dose of mixed oils and it's Maundy Thursday again and they tell themselves that this time they'll definitely get it right and put the stickers on better. But they don't know what to do with the left-over oils: which have been blessed by the bishops - so they started giving it to us. And we just put it in a big barrel, on the basis - much-loved by 80-year-old blokes - that it would come in handy one day.

And so last night, we decided it was time to use it. As an accelerant on the Wicker Person.

Well, it was quite a lot of oil.

And it consumed the Wicker Person in no time. Then headed for the trees in the Orchard. And before we knew it, we were battling the latest Beaker conflagration. Chucking water on the situation, of course, would only make matters worse. As we remembered as the ducks got off the pond in short order, and Duckhenge was razed to the ground. Again.

Anyway, there's nothing like singing "summer is ikumen in" while fire takes out your favourite apple trees. It was like being back at Oxford, except without the posh kids breaking their backs jumping in the Cherwell. What made it worse was the Bardic Brotherhood were in the orchard, tuning their lyres at the time. We had to roll them in the Astroturf round the Moot House.

So anyway. Eventually, it went out. The Moot House is still intact. But with all that incinerated scented oil, everyone slept for hours. We were going to get up for a thoroughly woo moment watching Jupiter and Venus at dawn. But I guess it will have to keep till next time they get together in the sky.

Happy May Day.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

"Mary"

 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:16)

So the Resurrection is the new Nativity. The pyrotechnics happen away from the main action - angels brought the good news to shepherds in the hills, an earthquake has happened early in the morning, bringing the good news to soldiers who would really rather not have known about it.

The earth which received Jesus has given him up, as if from the womb.

And as the dust settles from the quake, and the angels sneak off and the soldiers sculk round to await the anger and bemusement of the high priests, what's left among the birdsong, the dew, and the smell of unrequired spices? Just the loving humanity of a woman and the teacher she now knows is so much more.

This is beyond expectations - because for all of Jesus's promises before, who would have believed he really could rise on the third day? It wasn't that the disciples were too slow - it was that the truth was too rich.

And the exchange is simple and profound - this man who has conquered death, calls her just by her name. The response - respectful and yet still familiar, still what she has always known him as - "Teacher." Mary stands before the God who has conquered death and hell. Yet he is also the man she knows and loves as her teacher and friend.

But she cannot cling to him now. She has a job to do. She is the first evangelist - the apostle to the apostles - the first witness to the news that the Resurrection starts here, in the man she sees standing before her. The news must go into the world. And it must start with her.

And we celebrate with her, each of us who have known what it is to know our living and saving Teacher, Master, and Friend. Each of us whom he knows by name. Each of us who have received glimpses of the hope for us, and for our world. All who cannot physically cling to him, but yet know he is alive.

If the Blessed Virgin was blessed in receiving the first news from an angel, how blessed is Mary Magdalene in receiving the Resurrection news from our risen God himself? Alleluia - Christ is Risen!

Saturday, 16 April 2022

The Easter Egg Hunt Revisited

 The Guardian carries the news that the incoming food merchandising laws from this definitely-not-nanny-state Goverment means that in future shoppers will have to go on an Easter Egg hunt to find their chocolatey Paschal comestibles.

Of course, the Beaker Folk are way ahead of the game. Which is why the Little Pebbles have today been enjoying their first-ever Easter Carrot Hunt.

We've developed quite a nice back-story. That the Easter Bunny has been dropping carrots around the Lower Meadow, and the children have to go around with their wicker carrot baskets, collecting the tasty treats. Meanwhile Hnaef, Burton Dassett and Yardley Hastings had the job of pulling the Magical Carrot Cart around the community grounds, dispensing additional carrots.


 

OK. The Magical Carrot Cart idea went west when Hnaef had the idea of using it as a go cart. Smashed to pieces. The carrot, that is. Weirdly, it crash-landed next to an old man and much younger woman, who insisted they hardly knew each other.

But I was so looking forward to the children, relishing their natural and healthy snacks.

They've been crying for three hours now. If the little gets don't come to terms with this new tradition quickly, I'll have to send Young Keith to Tesco.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Traditions of Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday. When overworked clergy at their wits' ends travel to far-off cathedrals for an extra service. And think next year maybe someone will organise next-day delivery for holy oils instead.

When they return to be told that in Parson Marson's day, the churches would have queues outside of people wanting to join the post-communion Watch until 6am on Good Friday. In fact, some years so many people were on the rota for the Watch that they had to put Easter back a week.

In a new tradition, the parish Covid expert (Arthur, who provides the coffee whitener) will insist that the priest cleanses people's feet with anti-bacterial gel, to guard against the risk of the Plague being passed through hand-to-ankle contact. Priests will be told to wear splash visors against the danger of inhaling Athlete's Foot.

The tradition of Shoe-Shining Bishops has had to be scaled-down to only two or three per town, for safety reasons and to avoid overwhelming the NHS. Asking elderly people to spend several hours in an unnatural crouching position has been associated with seasonal clusters of sciatica. In 2018 at least one bishop, unable to straighten up, had to process down the aisle at the Chrism Mass so bent over, they had to stand his mitre on his back.

There is news that people planning tomorrow's Walks of Witness have been told that, in line with risk assessments, only one person can carry the eight foot long cross at any one time. Crosses of more than 20 feet in length can safely be carried by four people, as long as they wear hazmat suits.

Today is also the one of the Days of Drivel, when traditionally someone who knows less history, religion, and philology than a mung bean will trot out the whole ludicrous "Easter is Really a Pagan Festival" trope. In years gone by, they would be driven far out into the Fens, to improve the average intelligence of the parish.

On Maundy Thursday in Fakenham, nothing happens. The same as the rest of the year.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

The Ghost of Advent Past

Funny thing. For this evening's "Judas wasn't such a bad chap and probably just went to the wrong public school Wednesday" Tenebrae service, I went to look to see if we had some previously-used Advent Candles.

The Beaker Tenebrae, like all our services, tries to be upbeat. Holy Week can be so serious if you're not careful. So I thought we'd mix in some of the pink "You've lit it the wrong week - pink stands for Mary because she's a girl" candles, as well as the purple ones which are maybe more fitting the occasion. And I figured we'd have a few left over in the cupboard at the back of the Liturgical Paraphenalia Everyone Has Forgotten About Room.

Oh boy. Let me just say that I was glad I asked Burton to go in there and have a look, as he was crushed with the remains of the Advent Candles of years gone by. Clearly every year since time immemorial, as the Advent Wreath is put away on the day after Candlemas, someone has figured "there's some wear in them candles. I'll put them away in case they come in useful." Some of us would say that burying Burton is "useful", so fair enough.

We've sent in a team from Wessex Archaeology, and after carbon dating they reckon the oldest candles come from the 17th Century. This appears to be confirmed by a Christmas Card with the inscription, "A Merry England Christmas From King Charles II." 

Which is all a bit strange, as the Moot House has only been in existence since 2003, and has blown up, collapsed or been blown away many times since. Still, strange things happen in the cupboard at the back of the Liturgical Paraphenalia Everyone Has Forgotten About Room. We found Boris Johnson's moral integrity there once, but we put it back since nobody thought it would be of much use.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

A Triumph of Palms

I mean, really there's a number of options when it comes to entering a city as a king.

You can drive in in glory, with everybody awed by your magnificence and worshipping the ground you walk on. This seems to have been the story that Vladimir Putin and the Russian army swallowed with regards to Ukraine.
Or, if that doesn't work, you can maybe go to option 2 - marching into a cowed and wrecked city with people fearing your presence.

Jesus chooses neither. He takes a donkey - not a war horse. You may remember how Princess Fiona in Shrek thinks that Donkey is a mighty steed - until she notices that Shrek is an ogre. Donkeys are beasts of burden, hard to deal with, and more your middle-class Judean transport, perhaps.

With a side-order of prophecy, from Zech 9:9 -  "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

And here is that king. No armour. No arms. No captives being brought in for slaughter or sacrifice.  A strange and peaceful triumph - of palms, not armed might. A dusty army of dreamers. And their King of Peace. Being welcomed as if he's the one to free Jerusalem.

Which he is, of course. Just not the way anyone is expecting.

I was discussing this week the ever-pressing question of Safeguarding. And reflecting that one thing that put and puts men in power in the position to abuse is a system that encourages deference. That pumps up the bloke up the front. And puts him on a box that says, isn't he great. That says Father - or else the bloke wearing the poshest suit - is always right. That puts people beyond challenge.

Well, here's the model for leadership. Vulnerable - anyone can take him out anytime they like. When he sat round a table he was surrounded by his friends. Not up one end for fear of Judas.

Approachable - anyone can reach out and touch him. Nobody is too small, too poor, or two mired in misbehaviour for him.

He sat and ate with the leaders. Herod wanted to see him. But he turned all that round. Went to Jerusalem. Turned his face to the cross. And died with criminals.

Our God is still hope for the poor today. Even after nearly 2,000 years of the Church using power to reach them, not love.

But the love of God is shown in the face of a man on a donkey. Going into the city in expectation of battle. But a battle nobody expected, against the enemy nobody dreamed would be fought, and which would look a lot like a defeat before a victory was discovered.


Friday, 8 April 2022

I Have Measured Out My Life in Hallelujahs

Intrigued by the response - mostly of laity - to this reasonable question, from the @OurCofELike account about how many C of E clergy say the Daily Office regularly (twice a day being the legal requirement, as it were). I should at this point add the #NotAllLaity hashtag. And also, in these circumstances, the #NotAllClergy as that's how many say two Daily Offices.

And as an illustration, I'd like to borrow - if nobody minds - the brilliant adoption of the "spoons" terminology that people with, some medical conditions sometimes use to describe what they are capable of today. The concept taken from Eliot's Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons." 

Now, it should be pointed out that some clergy do suffer from diseases that involve the management of fatigure. Some are suffering from Long Covid. Many are just plain exhausted after two years of ministry in a strange world with more funerals, a divided society, people not going to church for fear of catching a deadly disease, and yet the demands for Parish Share and Statistics for Mission being unchanged. Many are exhausted from sheer caring.

But remembering that many aren't - I'm sure - let's invent the unit of Clergy Energy and Effectiveness. Let's call it the Hallelujah (symbol Hj). The Hj has a close relationship of course with its SI equivalent, the Joule (or the Calorie, for clergy that prefer BCP). And let's assume you're a fit, healthy, 50-year-old Clergy starts the day with 1,000 Hj - if you will, a kilohallelujah.

And the day is as well planned as can be. There are meetings in the diary, but space is left for prayer, and for the preparation of (and recording of) sermons. Study is of course pretty much excluded from the daily clerical routine. But you're intending to plan a study day. On the Noneteenth of Someuary.

The day starts brightly with ablutions. A cup of coffee sits steaming on the study desk. The 8.30 am Morning Prayer in church is blocked out. For which a ten minute walk is required. Healthy, bracing exercise. The perfect minister's day.

The phone rings. It's one of the 10 Wardens. Or, strictly speaking, 7. Little Tremlett has only the one, nonagenarian, warden. And at Great Tremlett they have an annual service to remember the day the Last Warden died and, like the nation of Gondor, they eagerly await the day when Elendil's Warden's Wand will be repaired and claimed by the Warden-That-is-to-Come. So the vicar's got the job.

But this is Melissa on the phone. Apart from her deathly poetry, she's a very capable Warden. But she went for a walk in the  churchyard at Grilsby-on-the-Hill this morning and there's a badger. Or, rather, traces of badger. Diggings around some of the graves and some rather unpleasant droppings. She goes into unnecessary detail.

Melissa says Jeb (local gravedigger, handyman and suspected lurker in the woods) is asking what poison is best. You tell her it's illegal to poison badgers. She then says OK - what about hitting them with a spade when they pop out? You tell her that is also illegal. She'll have to live with it, maybe repair the holes, and refer anyone worried about the remains of Aunt Flossie to you.

It's time to go church. In fact it's just past time. You leave your cold coffee and set off on your walk. Having been refreshed by a reasonable night's sleep, in which you only woke screaming about faculty rules twice, you don't notice the 25 Hj that just went out of you.

Heading down the road, you meet Arthur. Arthur wishes you a good morning. Says how nice it is to see a vicar about the place. Then takes the time to tell you that old Parson Marson did things properly. Would never be seen in public without his cassock. Ten minutes, and 20 hallelujahs, have gone by the time he goes off to catch the bus.

You now don't actually have time to finish the walk to church, say the Office, and then walk back. There is an assembly shortly. So you go back to the paraonage. Put the kettle on for a cup of tea. And stream the excellent Facebook morning prayer from All Saints with Holy Trinity, Loughborough.

While you're at it, you fill in a burial form to send to the Registrar. Then have to double check via Google how the Winklesea Registry Office is operating under the fag end of Covid changed rules - the deceased died while on holiday.  Turns out they've moved Registrar operations to the big office at Spilefleet, but not changed their form. You've not got a paper form via the funeral directors, in case you catch Covid. So you print off the form. But the form's green, and your printer has run out of coloured toner - you've prioritised Parish Share over luxuries since you've missed 9 months of plate offerings over the last two years - so you spend twenty minutes cancelling print jobs, and rebooting computer and printer so they're talking to each other again after the cancellation.

The form comes, out and you deal with it. You wonder vaguely what the reading was in Morning Prayer. But it's ten minutes till assembly. So you put the kettle back on, click on the Zoom link for the Assembly, boot up the PowerPoint and scramble for "special thing" that is used as a prayer focus. It's a stuffed hedgehog, for no obvious reason. You wonder how you'll fit it into the camera, but realise that's academic as the Zoom screen is just whirling sadly at you and no meeting is appearing. You wonder if it's quicker to wait or to reboot Zoom or the computer. You notice that 50 Hallelujahs oozed out of you while you were scrambling under the printer to find a new pack of paper, while it was shredding the last pages of the current pack.

By the time Zoom is working, the teacher i/c assemblies is playing library recordings of Hillsong music. You put the  task of telling him why that is problematic into a box marked "next time I'm in school." Scrap the PowerPoint - which you spent three hours creating - and summarise the story of Ruth and Naomi into "Ruth was very loyal. Her sister-in-law not so much. They all lived happily ever after." Some Hallelujahs escape from you as you say the final prayer and shut down Zoom 

You have a Pastoral Meeting in ten minutes. You put the kettle on, and feed the cat.

The Pastoral Meeting is via Zoom because Maisie Daisie hasn't left the house since March 2020 except for vaccinations. As far as you're aware, she has no actual medical conditions, and she's only 35. She just thinks you can't be too careful. She appears on screen in two masks and a visor. The phone rings. For the 14th meeting running, Melanie has forgotten to plug her camera in. Gabriel is trying to Zoom using 3G from his phone, because he believes broadband causes scabies. There is a ten minute delay while he drives to Melissa's. Melissa spends an hour telling everyone about the badger.

You have a funeral visit. It's a tough one. You chuck 100 Hallelujahs on top of the the fifty that the badger ate.

They didn't offer you a coffee so when you get back home, via a trip to the shop where a parishioner asked you at great length why you're never seen in the village, and where you bought a pasty to eat on the go, you put the kettle on before you have to go out to talk to the architect about the crack in the tracery at Great Tremlett. You get a call to ask if you can stop walking your dog in Little Tremlett churchyard. You spend twenty minutes explaining that, though it's your churchyard and you'll walk your dog in it if you like, you don't actually own a dog. Your will to live is creeping out along with some more Hallelujahs.

You have dreams of one day cycling round the parishes - the full Father Brown job, resplendent in cassock. But as usual it's drizzling and you're short of time. So you drive to Great Tremlett and look sadly at the crack in the tracery. The architect asks why your Wardens don't deal with this kind of thing. You reflect that at least if you ever murdered an architect, you'd be able to find somewhere to hide the body.

It's 3pm. You left the pasty on the unit in the kitchen, next to the cup of coffee you made at 8 am. And your next call is to Woodby Chapel End, where you are taking Mary Mandible her Home Communion. Only there's no answer at the door. Panicking, for Mary never leaves the house, you phone her. You can hear the ringing inside, but no one picks up. You knock on her neighbour's door. 

He tells you that Mary's gone away for a week to Winklesea. You mention that you've heard that's a dangerous place. But - more to the point - how on earth has she managed that? Apparently her boyfriend's taken her for a week of sun, sand and whatever else can be accommodated with her dodgy joints. You go back to the car, wondering how, when the time comes, to tackle the subject of whether Mary might like to actual come to church on Sundays in future.

It should be Evening Prayer, but nobody has joined you in church since last October. And that was someone who was hoping to steal the lectern. So you figure you'll say it in your study. So you go home and put the kettle on. Throw the pasty - warm from the sun - in the bin. Your spouse - back home from work - asks which of you will make dinner. You suggest, given the day you've both had, that you order takeaway. Again. You give thanks that your spouse earns enough to be able to afford to buy takeaways. You put the kettle on, to boil while you say Evening Prayer. You need the time and space - your Hallelujah levels are running low. The Grilsby-on-the-Hill Facebook page, you notice from your phone, is full of uproar about the badger invasion.

As you go to the study, someone knocks the door. There's nobody there. It's just the time of day when students returning from school think it's funny to "play knock-up ginger".

The fourth time, you tear out just in time to catch, on the doorstep, Doreen. She's coming back from the doctors, having discovered what she's got. You spend a couple of hours with Doreen in prayer and chat. And get your first cup of coffee of the day, finally.

As Doreen goes home, your spouse asks what you'd like as a takeaway and when. You remind the spouse that you have a PCC meeting in Woodby, but it will surely be over by nine.

At the PCC there's a major fallout over whether to put an LED light into the toilet in Woodby church hall straightaway, or to wait until the existing 30W incandescent bulb finally goes and then replace it. There is a long story about how Parson Marson installed that bulb in 1957.
 
At 10.30 pm you are eating cold Prawn Madras out of the tin tray. Spouse has gone to bed. You remember that you haven't said Evening Prayer yet. You go into the study, and find - somewhere deep down in your soul - one, remaining, cold and broken Hallelujah. You can't face the thought of finding your pages in Common Worship, and your eyes are too tired to read from the screen. So you switch on the recording from 6 pm's "Shrine Prayers" from Walsingham. You enjoy the silence for a few minutes, as you await them start of the Angelus.
 
You wake up at 3 am with your face in the Madras tray.

Monday, 4 April 2022

Liturgy for the Death of June Brown (Dot Cotton / Branning)

Introit: Eastenders Theme Tune

Archdruid: Oh I say.

All: I ain't one ter gossip.

Archdruid: I ain't one ter gossip.

All: Oh I say.

Filling-up of washing machines

Young Keith: 'Ello Ma.

Archdruid: Young Keef! Yer've come back!

Young Keith: I'd only been to Tesco's.

Archdruid: Well, you know me.

All: I ain't one ter gossip.

Stubbing out of fags

There is a time for everything.
A time to live and a time to die.
A time to load washing machines and a time to tumble dry.
A time to call the boss Poppydoppyloss and a time to call the boss Poopydropoliss.
A time to do 30 minute episodes on your own and a time to have a fag.
And a time to have another fag.
And another fag.
A time to enter stage right and a time to fade.
A time for intro music and a time for the doof-doof-doofs.

God: Doof-doof-doof.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Pouring Money Down the Drain

An act of devotion, cost, and beauty. Mary of Bethany pours a jar of expensive perfume onto Jesus's feet, and wipes it with her hair. An act of worship. An act that would fill all the senses - the amazing sight of this respectable woman pouring out her love. The sound of the oil pouring. The smell of spikenard filling the air.

But. There's always one, isn't there? One with the hot take? One who says, "I wouldn’t have done it like that if I were you." Sort of person who'd listen to Beethoven's Fifth being premiered, sidle up to the stage door afterwards, and go, "I reckon dah-dah-dah dum is a bit samey as an intro, Ludwig? And maybe just drop a little bit of the 3rd violin?"

And here we have, of course, Judas. Leaping into that role with "You could have sold the ointment and given it to the poor, dear. You're just pouring money down the drain, there."

Now we're not told what Mary says in reply, having been Judasplained about her priorities. But I like to think it was something like, "that was my jar of ointment that I can use for what I like. And you can keep your opinions, mate."

Because it's not Judas's ointment. He has no authority here. Mary has done something wonderful and beautiful and costly, and Judas hasn't. He has no right to criticise because this hasn't cost him.

Isn't that often the way when we criticise? It's not costly to us. We've not taken the risks or paid the costs. It's not us that's learned an instrument or practised for however many hours or put our heart and soul into the thing we've decided isn't good enough.

All the armchair generals telling us how Ukraine should defend itself are very definitely not having to plan a war while bombs rain around them. All the people in media and social media, telling us that they got by in the 1930s with just a candle to warm the house and ice so thick on the windows they had to scrape polar bears off to get the curtains open in the morning. They're criticising those who are struggling with heating and food bills, but they're doing so from positions of comfort. There's no cost for them. No risk.

Mary of Bethany is not taking the low-risk option of sitting back and snarking about others. She's got an expensive bottle of perfume and she's gonna pour it on Jesus's feet. She's seen something  - an opportunity - that we don't have. You know how in his first Epistle, St John says, how can you love the God you haven't seen if you don't love your neighbour whom you can see? Mary is able to see God before her. And she has poured out to him the costliest thing she has.

And the room is full of the beauty of the love she has poured out. This is pure worship - heartfelt, beautiful, and costly.

And prophetic. Jesus is Christ, the Anointed One - and here he is, being anointed. But this anointment is against the day of his funeral. Mary’s pre-empting his death. And doing the job that all the other Marys, and Salome, won't do later - when they go to a tomb to anoint a dead Christ, and find against all science and reason that their services are not required.

So what does this passage tell us about worship? That it's beautiful, personal and costly. That it involves our whole selves and all our senses.

What does it tell us about loving God and our neighbours? The old story. That we love God with all our lives, and then our neighbours as ourselves. After 2,000 years, the poor are still with us.

What does it tell us about cheap criticism? That it's safe for us, destructive to others, and not pleasing to God.

And what does it tell us about Jesus? That he is the Holy one. The Anointed one. The one worthy of all our hearts' and lives' possessions. And yet the one who though deserving all things will bring us to his Father through a cross.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Very Mild Commination on Someone Who Stole the Sachet of Seeds from a Poundland Grow-Your-Own Chilli Pot


Woe is me, for I am as a woman bereft of chilli seeds - but not many. 

Slightly saddened am I, and a bit bemused.

For behold, the pot in which I was to grow my chilli plants, 

which I bought for just a quid from Poundland

is empty of chilli seeds

and the contents are incomplete.

There are the little pads of coir compost on which I was to scatter the seeds

Behold the little plastic dish in which to place the compost

But there are no seeds

The sachet is not there

The pot is bereft

and life is not in it.

I am the victim of the world's most low-value crime

and  also quite a long-term one.

For who thieves a small sachet of chilli seeds thinking to fence it on the black market?

Where is the cut-price shop selling tiny sachets containing few seeds?

Woe unto they who cannot put their hands into their pockets for a pound to buy a packet of seeds 

And would rather source their greenhouse comestibles by thievery and deceit.

May wrath burn against them

but only mildly

Like unto an chipotle or an jalapeño

and not like unto the Scotch Bonnet

or the Carolina Reaper, which scorcheth the nether regions the day after consumption like the very fires of Gehenna.

May those who steal very small sachets of chilli seeds stub their toes very slightly when they go to bed at night.

May they have forget where they have lain their glasses

remembering not that they are on top of their heads.

May their remote controller run out of batteries 

just when Pointless is on the other channel.

May they wake up five minutes before their alarm goes off

and then fall asleep again, only to be awakened shortly afterwards.

May Windows install updates two minutes before their important Zoom meeting.

May their hair dye be just one shade out of what they expected.

Or - if male - may they go bald two weeks earlier than they would otherwise expect.

May the door bell ring when they are in the bath

and the Yodel delivery agent throw their package over the fence

But the box not be too badly damaged

and the goods inside basically OK.

So may they have minor frets

and lesser inconveniences

all the days of their lives.

Or at least for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

What Nazanin Should Have Said

I would like to start by saying how grateful I am. To Liz Truss, who manages to look so inspiring on Instagram, and to Boris Johnson. It is true to say that having Boris Johnson as Prime Minister has truly righted the situation after all those previous Foreign Secretaries, who weren't as good as Liz Truss, failed.

As an Iranian-born dual national, I am especially duly grateful that the United Kingdom has gone to all the trouble of paying a decades-old debt, just so I can come to what I can regard - until Priti Patel revokes my citizenship - as home. 

I would like to thank all the people with Twitter accounts featuring Union Jacks and words like "Brexiteer" in their profiles. If they had not been referring to "mad mullahs" for all these years, the Iranian government would never have caved in and released me in the way they did.

I should especially add my husband Richard. Not only has he repeatedly gone on hunger strike to support me - but more importantly, he was grateful to Liz Truss. Whose taste in hats is arguably second only to Boris Johnson's stylish wearing of hi vis. I am very grateful. And, as his wife, I know he is right.

And I would like to make it clear that, with my dual nationality, I have really no right to be British at all - as you can see by looking at my skin tone. And so I am so grateful that people are prepared to consider me a bit British by marriage. 

Finally, I would like to thank Vladimir Putin. Without the oil crisis he generated by invading Ukraine, which meant Boris Johnson needed to find alternative sources,  I might still be under house arrest in Iran. So, like so many of the people with Union Jacks and "Brexiteer" in their profiles on Twitter, I owe so much to him.

I am very grateful.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Green and AstroTurfed Land

News from my friend Melissa Sparrow, famed for her terrible poems. Over in Grilsby-on-the-Hill where she lives, they've been getting fretful about the regular costs of cutting the grass in the churchyard. And there's been numerous fights over it. Being a traditional farming community, they go out and spray it with all sorts of poisons so as not to have any dandelions, daisies, nettles or primroses in the grass. But there's been an influx of "them woke types from the City what the Express warned us about", and they started to suggest a programme of leaving some uncut, raking up the mowings, building compost heaps and other such left-wing conspiracies.

So at the last PCC they voted to cover the graveyard with artificial grass.

Melissa is sad at the loss of the previously lovely stripy lawns.

And then there's the other downside. The terrifying Grilsby Badgers. Notorious for digging in the graveyard, mugging passing archdeacons, and excavating archaeological sites while nobody is looking.

Artificial turf is no match for badgers, it turns out. There's now two-foot holes dug through the turf all over the place. Some of the badgers have taken to getting under the fabric, then tearing around like soldiers on an assault course. It's causing terror to unsuspecting church visitors who become aware that chunky objects are heading towards them with plans to steal their shoes.

Yes. Grilsby badgers steal shoes. Which they then drag under the plastic grass. So now there's the green outlines of assorted shoes, sticking out of the graveyard.

And the parishioners of Grilsby really think, in retrospect, they should maybe have cut round the gravestones rather than straight over them. Some relatives are starting to complain. Although, to be fair, not too loudly in case they attract the attention of the badgers.

One did. And now there's the green outline, etc etc. The badgers are holding him hostage for more shoes.

If you're thinking of covering your graveyard with artifical turf - I wouldn't.


Saturday, 19 March 2022

If Sting Wrote Hymns for Progressive Liberal Christians

Roxanne
You don't have to light up that tea light
Taize is over
We can go out all relaxed and feeling bright.
Roxanne 
Icons don't have to be used tonight
Just hold your seaside pebble
You don't care if it's wrong or if it's right.

(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
 You don't have to light up that tea light

I've got that blissful feeling
Iona is appealing
I have to tell you just how I feel
I don't care who wrote Ephesians.
My liberal mind's all made up
So you can wear your make up
Told you once I won't tell you again
I won't judge you.
 
(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
You don't have to light up that tea light
(Roxanne)
 You don't have to light up that tea light

Thursday, 17 March 2022

The Name of the Moon

A lot of people getting very excited about the "Worm Moon", the made-up traditional name for today's full moon. And the Beaker Folk have asking me what the traditional Beaker names for the full moon were.
Well, I've done some investigation and I can confirm that the complete list of traditional Beaker names for moons is as follows:

January: Keith Moon
February: Sun Yung Moon
March: John O'Mooney
April: April* Moon
May: Button Moon
June: Clanger Moon
July: Daphne Moon
August: Under the Water Moon
September: Werewolf Moon
October: Hallowmoon
November: Ban Ki Moon
December: Moonmass

And I think everyone knows that, if there's a second moon in the month, it's a leap moon and you have to put the clocks to 1792.

* They took April off.

If Sting Wrote Fundamentalist Evangelical Hymns

Every breath we take
Every move we make
Each tambourine we shake 
Every cake we bake
You'll be judging us.

Every gift we bring
Every song we sing
Every bell we ring
Every sacred thing
You'll be watching us.

Oh we all know
We belong to you
Our knees just quake
With every vow we break.

Every night time prayer
All the clothes we wear
Each time we don't care
How we wear our hair 
You'll be watching us.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Dust

It's not his Lent yet, but still...


A little man sits at a long table
Face puffy with his fight against mortality
No one comes near
All must be tested
A mighty ruler, yet scared of a handshake
or a rogue breath, veering in the wrong direction.

So powerful, so great, his rule obeyed
So shrunken, so faded, so scared.

"I am almighty," he says, "or maybe I am just Herod, to be eaten from inside. "

Filling others' skies with manifest threat
While his own air is filled with one invisible.

Was that a speck of death?
Or just a particle of dust?

Sunday, 20 February 2022

Neil Oliver's Libertarian Road Trip

It's an odd thing. Once upon a time, Neil Oliver was famous for going round Britain on a boat like a watery, druidic Michael Portillo. Or maybe an unfunny Michael Palin. But now he's joined up with the ranks of  the never-quite-made it, to become a random shouty libertarian alongside Piers Corbyn, Right Said Fred, and Laurence "Sidekick to a Sidekick Who Never Got His Own Show" Fox.

We follow Neil as he embarks on his libertarian Road Trip.


Driving down the A43. Comes across the sign, "Kettering welcomes careful drivers."

Drives into a lamp-post.

NO: Don't you tell me what to do, Kettering!

On a barge going down the Nene at Northampton. Comes across a sign, "beware of weir".

Ends up clinging to a pallet, as boat is ripped to pieces.

NO: I demand my rights to float to Wellingborough on pieces of watery debris! I am the "Coast" Guy!

On the Grand Union Canal. Signs say "no fishing - overheard lines"

NO: I think I know best what to do with my own fishing rod.

Spends 3 weeks glowing in the dark

A visit to Woburn Abbey. Sign says "Lion Enclosure: do not get out of your vehicle."

NO: Did Magna Carter not give me the right to walk where I like? I defy your liberal cotton-wool mollycoddling.

Series ends 


"Brian Cox in the 25th Century"

BC: Hello! And welcome to Brian Cox in the 25th Century! Where, thanks to my eternal youth, I'm still pointing at the sky and saying things like "a million million million stars" while being really enthusiastic! And today I'm joined by Neil Oliver, who by the modern technology of PCR-Plus we've resurrected from just a hair out of his beard, which was preserved in the National Museum of Secular Relics next to Frankie Howerd's wig. Neil - it's good to see you again.

NO: Brian! Last thing I saw was a load of teeth... and now it's you. Where are we?

BC: We're on the edge of the Event Horizon of the black hole at the centre of our universe! And whatever we do, we mustn't go over that line over there...

NO: I suppose that's another thing the Government is trying to control us with. Well, we'll see about that... oooh... my legs are like spaghetti... 

Friday, 18 February 2022

Beating The Evil Out With Sticks

The Beaker Folk have been getting increasingly concerned that we will no longer be allowed to beat the evil out of people with sticks. 

Beating the evil out with sticks has always been a part of Beaker Culture. Going back 5,000 years, whenever we needed to get evil out of someone we would beat them with sticks.

And we would never beat people with sticks if they didn't want it. All the people being beaten with sticks have made it clear that it is exactly the sort of thing you need to get the evil out.

There is a strong body of evidence that beating people with sticks works. And even when it doesn't, it's the fault of the beatees. Not the beaters. They are doing the best job they can with the tools available to them*.

So we demand our ancient rights to beat people with sticks to drive the evil out.

Beating people with sticks to drive the evil out. You know it makes sense.


* sticks


Saturday, 12 February 2022

The Downing Street Lockdown Get-Together Questionnaire

1. What is your name?

a. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel

b. Boris

c. Bozza

d. My lawyer has advised me not to answer this.


2. What event were you at, on the night in question?

a. A party

b. A business meeting, where we drank a couple of bottles of wine each, as normal in 10 Downing Street when working on major policies

c. A business meeting, where we drank 2 pints of champagne each, because that's what Winston Churchill would have done

d. Without Dom here, I have no intellectual faculties to answer this question. 


3. Is Downing Street a unique combination of home and workplace?

a. Yes, obviously

b. Apart from vicarages, of course

c. And people who work from home

d. How dare they work from home? They should be getting into central London and buying wine from Tesco Metro.


4. Which of these is the largest measure of wine?

a. A magnum

b. A Methuselah

c. A Belshazzar

d. A suitcase


5.  Did you maintain social distance at all times?

a. Yes

b. No

c. Sometimes

d. Does "tongues" count as social distancing?


6. Who do you blame for the party?

a. Remainers

b. Remainers

c. Remainers

d. Don't you mean "whom"? 


7. Is there anything you would like to add?

a. Phwarr! Union Jacks! Boost for Bolton! 

b. Carrie doesn't live here anymore

c. I'm the PM and Jacob knows where you live

d. What happened to Cressida?

Walsingham


In the candle-lit house-within-a-house of God
Where the squelch of pilgrims' sandals echoes on the tile
Tucked away from the Disney-Catholic of Patten's dreams of pageant
Her own face just an urchin's, she holds her child.

Smeared with the smoke of candles, and a mother's pain.
"My heart was pierced, and is pierced, and will be pierced again."

Monday, 7 February 2022

Introducing the Druid for Dromedaries

 

I'm intrigued by the (hopefully just) kite-flying news that the Church of England is considering lining some of its bishops up as full-time spokesbishops, rather than mostly being in the current pastoral arrangement.

Especially as I've just finished the line-up of druidic posts as part of my own restructuring programme, as set out in the pamphlet, Beakerism Beyond Brexit.

Obviously, I'm not considering a Druid for Brexit. Ridiculous idea, as we know that Brexit is done. Complete. A massive success. And we will never need to mention it again.

So instead, here's the new generation of speciality druids for the New Normal.

  • Druid for Transport
  • Druid for Oak Groves
  • Druid for Clickbait
  • Druid for Mistletoe
  • Druid for Liaison betwen the Druid for Oak Groves and the Druid for Mistletoe
  • Druid for Dromedaries
  • Druid for Camels with Plural Humps whose Species Name We can't Remember
  • Druid for People Called Ken
  • Druid for Data
  • Druids for Gin
  • Druid for Gyms
  • Druid for Volunteering to Read "Archbishop Cranmer's" Blog
  • Druid for Entity Relationship Diagrams
  • Druid for Big Business  
  • Druid for SMEs
  • Druid for Health and Public Swimming Pools
  • Druid for Diplomacy
  • Druid for Risk
  • Druid for Dorset
  • Druid for Post-It Notes
  • Druid for Improved Standards in Tent Design
  • Druidfor Writing Articles Countering Peter Hitchens
  • Druid for Standing on street corners saying "Camembert" like Wallis from Wallis and Gromit
  • Druid for Bacon
  • Druid for Snow
  • Druid for Cartoons
  • Druid for Scuba-Diving
  • Druid for Social Media, but not Tik-Tok cos that's never gonna catch on
  • Druid for The Archers
  • Druid for Snacks



Saturday, 5 February 2022

The Red Kite Chronicles - BTL responses

I was watching the red kites swirling over Top Meadow earlier. Amazing, beautiful birds with that haunting whistle for a call.

You know, I often think that the red kite could be the Beaker Folk equivalent of the Celtic "Wild Goose". Free, beautiful, graceful, signifying the "otherness" of a God that can be both of our world, and yet out of our reach. When we watch a red kite circling beyond our reach - always just out of the shot of a decent photo, as often proven by the Karen Lewis Wildlife Photography Facebook Group - are we not brought out of ourselves?

What sights can the red kite see, we wonder? How must the world look to one that, in its stillness, can yet see the smallness of human beings? What thoughts must pass through the mind of that creature that sees the map of the landscape drawn out below them?


Townmouse 18:53 

They are lovely birds. But be careful! One took a sandwich out of my hands in Marlow. I'm not going back to Marlow.


Roddyrick 18:54 

People think they're harmless. But I heard about one taking the toupee of an old chap's head in Swindon. He was scared to go out after that.



Jeremiah 18:55 

I heard they can break a swan's arm with one blow of their necks.


VaxIsDeath32323 18:56 

Bill Gates has programmed them to spread the so-called "Omicron" virus in their droppings so he can put micro-transmitters in your arm. Which will then attract more kites. Spreading more Omicron. Until we reach the Omega point where there are more kites than people, and then they will take over. Wake up, sheeple!


ArnoldSame 18:58 

I took my Pekinese, Mr Whoozy, out for a walk and one was hovering overhead. It obviously thought Mr Whoozy would make a tasty morsel. They are natural-born killers.


Random Ralph 18:59 

I went for a walk in the countryside and they were circling over, waiting to pick my bones clean if I died of sunstroke. I was so scared of them I walked into a hedge and had to be rescued by the local dogging society. This is all Nick Clegg's fault. And the kites. That's their evil plan.


VaxIsDeath32323 19:02 

@Random Ralph - just beware of dogging societies. I was a member for several years and now I daren't look the vicar in the eye.


Roundsmith 19:05 

I heard about red kites in the East End. They form gangs and steal cars. If you find secret chalk markings outside your house, it was probably a kite. My nan used to know the Krays and she said there was no red kites in the East End back then. Reggie would eat them in a white bread sandwich. With jellied eels, of course. He was a gentleman.


Chavsopolitan 19:06 

Saw six kites fly away carrying a sheep between them. This is why if you see a sheep on its own, you should always take it home and hide it in the garage. I've got several of them but now I'm living in fear of the Young Farmers' Society. And I've run out of lawn to feed them.


FluffyBun 19:08 

I notice since red kites have been back in the countryside, the number of Curly Wurly bars in circulation has reduced. Coincidence? I think not. 

EUSSR Mafia 19:12 

@Jeremiah These "red" kites are a commie / woke / EU plot. Back when I was a kid we had red white and blue, patriotic kites. They would never attack Her Majesty's swans.


Lord Heh Heh 19:17 

I remember back when red kites assisted the Nazis to invade Belgium. Never trusted them since.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Lament for the Filling-in of Statistics for Mission


 

Graphs for different mission stats. Attendance steady decline, with a massive fall in 2020. Baptisms and Weddings down to zero in 2020/1. Funerals steady and then shoot up in 2021 and 2020

My heart sinks within me 

and my mind reels at my situation.

For I am filling in a website full of mission statistics

when the world outside is utterly changed.

How can I compare 2021 with 2019?

Or even with 2020?

How can I explain the difference in numbers?

How can I tell the diocese why my heart sinks at my failings

Apart from remembering those that are still scared

those that have lost the habit

and those that are dead.

 

Is a BCP Communion a Fresh Expression?

What are "young people"?

 

I weep as I recall those days when I would fill in the stats

Knowing that the church was - to be frank - a quarter full

And rejoicing in the annual Messy Church

Though at the time I thought it was slightly paltry

- in retrospect, what a time to be alive!

 

But now I enter "Zero" in many columns 

and wonder whether singing carols at the pub is a Fresh Expression

or an evening service.

 

I wonder how many people watch online 

And whether it equals those that the post "reached" 

Or those that "engaged"

Or those that got to the end

Knowing that in Facebook worship

There is no end.

 

But this I remember

As I submit my form

The mercies of the Lord are everlasting

That soon men and women will be marrying as in the days of Noah

(but not men and men, or women and women, for that would cause a Schism)

that baptisms will rise up like spring flowers

even like the flowers in the gardens of Babylon

and that though death may not be at an end

at least the weekly funerals might be.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Nativity of Norman Clegg (Peter Sallis) 1921

Hymn: On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At

Archdruid: 'Ow do.

All: 'Ow do to you too.

Archdruid: It'll be dark by nightfall.

All: Can we push the old bloke down a hill in a bath tub now?

Archdruid: We've got to have some whimsical musings on life first.

All: What's that we hear on the wind?

Archdruid: The sound of little creatures eating other creatures.

All: That's not whimsical.

Archdruid: OK - can we have the incompetent driver to do his incompetent driving display?

All: He drove into the gate.

Archdruid: What about the bloke sitting in a giant wheel, driven on lots of little wheels?

All: Landed in the river.

Archdruid: The three old blokes on bikes joined together for no obvious reason?

All: Flew over the wall.

Archdruid: The old bloke in a boat?

All: Sank.

Archdruid: The shifty-looking bloke with a nervous twitch?

All: Cycled off with the peroxide blonde.

Archdruid: OK. Push the old bloke down the hill in a bathtub.

Old Bloke: Noraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Archdruid: And so let us commend Norman Clegg, I mean Peter Sallis, to the Old Yorkshire gods: Sam and Earnshaw.

All: 'Ow do, Sam! 'Ow do, Earnshaw!

Archdruid: It'll be dark by nightfall.

All: And also with you.

Hymn: Compo has Gone and Lost His Wellies

Saturday, 29 January 2022

GateGate

People are increasingly angry about the event they are now calling "GateGate". Allegedly in April 2020, I was seen standing at the gate in The Orchard, talking to Melissa Sparrow of Little Tremlett for several hours. This claim is apparently backed up by drone footage, CCTV, a sworn affidvait and twenty-three eyewitness accounts.

Obviously this whole event - which never happened - was completely innocent. Melissa was on her permitted once daily exercise. That she had walked 50 miles and still had to go home is testimony to her amazing fitness, caused by her terror of failing health and death

Death. Death. Death.

Sorry, I don't know what came over me there.



There have been allegations that the evidence of an empty gin bottle with my finger prints on, recovered from under the hedge next to the gate, means this was some kind of party. Nothing could be further from the truth. The debris of a Krispy Kreme doughnuts party pack likewise proves that the non-existent event was in fact a business meeting. Which we had to do in person, outdoors, as we needed to forge a lot of signatures. 

Claims that we then repaired to the Archdruidical Suite, where we played 80s funk-soul into the early hours, are clearly rubbish. What happened was that, overcome by the sixth Krispy Kreme which she clearly didn't eat because she wasn't there, Melissa started hallucinating that she was Edward "Ten Pole" Tudor-Pole. I had to bring her back to the 21st Century via the Punk Rock, Grunge, Brit-Pop and Spice Girls eras. Which is why we weren't loudly singing Adele songs by 4 am. 

As Beaker Folk will know, I asked Young Keith to investigate these allegations (Charlii being busy selecting wallpaper) and I'm pleased to say that there's definitely nothing to worry about in his report. However, since Young Keith's uncle, the police officer, has now, definitely independently, taken an interest in the non-existent meeting, Young Keith will only publish the outline of his findings for the long time being.

I can now share the report with you here:


"GATEGATE" REPORT

*** REDACTED ***

There is a gate in the hedge around The Orchard.

*** REDACTED ***

I would like to thank my mother, Archdruid Eileen, for all her support.

FIN