Monday, 31 January 2011

Where never is heard . . .

The Primate's meeting in Dublin has ended and there wasn't a 'discouraging word'!

No, not one. There were of course two and these are: "CRITICAL SITUATION!"

Rowan did mention that there were a 'significant number of absentees for a number of reasons."
How true and the fact is that it appears that the number of reasons is, predominantly, 'ONE'.

And this ONE reason became flesh and took on the appearance of the lovely KJS, doyen of the liberal and wicked witch to the orthodox! Her invitation, the continuing naughtiness of the American Episcopalians and Rowan's ability to issue warnings and state positions that are never acted upon are causing a lack of confidence in one and bringing the Communion to what is indeed, a 'CRITICAL SITUATION'.

The Primate's own communiqués regarding everything that the Episcopalians have been doing have been ignored and the Episcopalians have broken every commitment and promise it appeared to have made. It was this that stopped the majority of those who stayed at home from coming! Rowan said that their absence was 'felt' and mentions that every day their name plates were placed on empty chairs and candles were lit for them!

If the absences were 'felt' then surely they should also have been acted upon? If I was in a situation whereby someone (or as in this case, 'many') absented themselves from a meeting (social or business) I would seek to remedy this sadness. Surely this is what Rowan should have done, and needs to do?

Rowans words, "They would not be “closing the doors on those who are not with us”.

Surely the reality is that he 'should not have been opening doors to some who were with him!'

He spoke of a “long task” which would see many diplomatic entreaties and positioning and hoped that the Primate's own standing committee might assist in “re-establishing local and regional relationships” and then, when asked about 'disciplinary action against the Episcopalians' said he didn't know. Apparently he doesn't have a crystal ball regarding the actions against the Episcopalians, but I have a sneaky feeling that he doesn't need one - seems to me, other than more primates bugging our and showing their lack of confidence in the man, Rowan doesn't have a clue.

I think the problem is that he's stuck between his own views and doing that the role of ABC demands. On one hand there are the needs of the many and on the other the views of the one!

This rift, for regardless of how one presents it, it is indeed a rift will only serve to fuel division and present opportunities for those who wish to make mischief (from every side). The issues responsible for the rift will only convince those in denominations outside of Rome and the CofE that the Anglicans are becoming a limp-wristed, liberal and sexuality-confused (and sexual-sin approving) bunch.

Warnings are issued; Positions are stated and all that Dublin has demonstrated is that they were merely words, hollow and impotent words. A verbal reflect of the physical manifestation perhaps?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Daily Bread

I was once again caught up by the story of the widow of Zaraphath (I Kings 17) and the NT reading which spoke of Jesus' first miracle at the wedding when he turns water into wine. A couple of creation miracles which spurred me into thinking about the Lord's Prayer.

Before I get too engrossed in things, here's a look at the widow's story:

"Then the word of the Lord came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah."

Here we have a woman who has so little that once the final meal is done, all that awaits her and her son is starvation and death. But 'according to the word spoken by Elijah', this did not happen. The oil and flour continued to be there for them and they lived 'until the rains came' (which I have assumed means that stuff grows and fruits ripen and so other food will be available).

People recite the Lord's Prayer without, it seems to me, taking onboard the words relating to the giving of our daily bread. If I had a pound for every person I've met who has told me that they 'live by faith' when what they mean is that they are well-paid and comfortable, I'd have more than a pound!

Every day God provides for us, but we lose that provision in the comfort our our employment and earnings, or perhaps unemployment and our benefits. It is too easy for us to fail to see God's provisions because we provide for ourselves.

It is easy to trust God when we have an income, an assured job, education, a supportive family and the like, but behind all the facades, when the smoke clears - if we stop, think and pray - we will find God's hand on our lives.

Pax

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Utilities, communications and privatisation

I know I'm going to sound like a real dinosaur here but here goes:

I see that moves are, once more, afoot to sell off the british Postal Service (AKA 'The Post Office'. Not only that but Vince Cable (the business secretary) says that the coalition government, "Would not be opposed to foreign investors buying it to help tackle the pensions deficit."

Now I have two distinct areas of difficulty with this. The first relates to the fact that we have an excellent postal system which collects locally and delivers to our doors (in fact, through our doors) and any selling of the business will undoubtedly see this eroded. After all, we already have private mail firms who collect, primary sort and then deliver the mail by using the Post Office (how blinking bonkers is that?). We have the cosy, inner-city stuff handed over to private carries and then complain about the fact that in suburban and rural areas the Post Office goes where others couldn't, especially not at the price that they charge!

Selling the business off is a fool's charter and one which, even with email and the like, will change for the worse our social infrastructure. We will see even more post office branches vanish and the prices will go through the roof.

There is business backing for selling the business off because having sold off some bits and allowed competition (surely competition should use it's own vehicles and postal staff, not piggyback on the Post Office's?) they have undermined and weakened the business so that it look ripe for selling.

But I did say two areas, so let's move onto the other one:

I was taught that it was foolhardy to put utilities and communications in the hands of foreign entities. Now this might sound a bit paranoid (but they might be out to get me) and I might soon appear as if I support conspiracy plans (What! They're out to get me and they're planning it too!), but . .

There is something to be said for a state-owned water, electricity, gas, sewage, telephone and postal service. Ultimately, in time of war, for instance, I am sure that all of the above would be drawn back under the control of any government of the day (O.K., it's obvious that if they're involved we're probably already doomed!). But I hope you see the logic. It's not one that supports a free trade global market I know, but logistically there is logic in what I say (I think).

Of course I am but a mere dog collar (who would also re-open the Post Office Railway which nestles dormant below the streets of central London and take loads of the mail vans off the streets!) and know little about even less, but it still makes sense to my addled brain.

Doubtless someone clever out there can tell me why I'm wrong . .go on then :)

Pax

Everything in common?

I get a bit concerned with the fact that so many people quote Acts Two (verse forty-two onwards) that it becomes a little hackneyed and also perhaps a lot of a cliche too, losing the impact through the familiarity.

For me, this passage highlights what ecumenism, and living as a Christian, is all about!

This passage speaks of the believers living on their 'own homes' and managing their own affairs (familial, financial stuff). But it also speaks of the believers selling possessions to ensure that 'none went without'. This has, for me, a resonance with the instruction regarding 'bringing all of our tithe into the storehouse . . .' found in Malachi chapter ten.

As we each live in our spiritual houses, the churches and fellowships, we need to be looking to emulate the Acts 2:42 church within our fellowships and within the wider, local and 'translocal' (as Dunn calls it!).

A call for us to support our own church family (through prayer, tithes for the church and pastoral care and giving within it), the local church family (through prayer, physical and financial support and commitment to each and every member and congregation) and the wider Church (through mission giving, calling out for ministry and projects).

It's so simple, so why don't we do it?

Some only want to live on their 'holy huddles' and live in isolation - not Biblical, not right!

Some only want to support their own
group, franchise or denomination - again, not Biblical, not right, not to be done (this doesn't mean we deny or work against our denomination though), sorry!

Some only want to support local (or British) projects and churches - again, wrong!

Some only want to support like-minded people. Some want to use support as a carrot and withholding of the Eucharist as a stick. Doesn't look that good in print does it (but there is a discussion to be had here!).

As the NT Church was seen to be in unity. As the world saw people living in communion and peace, they flocked to join and get some of it. How many flocking in these days?

Have any idea why not?

Pax

Friday, 28 January 2011

Blogging and getting the hits!

What's going on with the blogging business I wonder? Today I've had three emails offering to get me more hits and and another telephone call from another reader (that means I have two now, things are looking up!) who wondered what I thought about a certain blog. I asked what the criterion was for my response and they said that being mentioned on it would certainly mean that they were at least referenced in a place that is authoritative and therefore likely to get them noticed.

This gave me a problem in that perhaps I've been a little foolish in thinking that you posted links to, and quoted, those blogs which challenged, informed or in some way touched you. Perhaps I was wrong and that the basis of posting links and having a blogroll (that is a list of blogs which are recommended) is all part of a quid pro quo sort of arrangement (I remember my Latin teacher telling us us that although it meant 'this for that' it was best remembered as "What's in it for me?").

I have to say that I consider it to be a rather mercenary exchange and one that might lead the poor purveyor of a blog to point to the blog of another as a merely commercial or advertising rich opportunity, which surely indicates a certain cynicism and a potential lack of integrity. Now I am sure that no one links to, or quotes, another source just to look good or attract attention or applause. Then again, remembering marking essays I was also sure that every quote, even though totally out of context was there for a purpose other than to make me think the author of the (sometimes vague and tedious) essay had actually read the set books. Of course, should the opportunity present itself in a tutorial to engage with the topic, it often transpired that perhaps I should have been more cynical.

Still, Augustine was indeed (as one student wrote) a Hippo and Julian was one of Norwich's finest and most spiritual sons! Not only that but Paul had his name changed when he became a Christian as he gave his Saul to his maker (where do students get this stuff, I'm sure I've never taught such things!!!).

Anyway, as is my wont, I digress.

Another good piece of advice is that unless one wants to 'monetize' (one has to ask oneself whether that is really a word one!) or need to have the most hits (in which case can I suggest that myriad numbers of minimally dressed people, a plethora of expletives and the like will do the trick. I look forward to seeing how you're going to make it Christian, but we all have our challenges :) ), then don't bother.

You will attract those whom find you valid or give them a sense of security in that THERE ARE people out there who are thicker than them. The problem only comes if you care and need to be affirmed. That said I will have to find out how many hits this blog does get, because people ask and my answer of 'ten' doesn't seem to hold much sway (they know I know that they know I'm exaggerating wildly!).

Seems that size really matters, just not sure whether it's those who have the numbers or those who don't that worry about it!

Pax.

ps.I really enjoyed one of the adverts today. Apparently if I copy some of the content from sites that attract a large number of hits, people will also find my blog and come to me to see what I've got to say about that topic, and of course when they find out the answer is 'nothing', they will keep on coming back too!

pps. Wonder if that works for sermons too?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Holocaust Memorial Day 2011

This coming Sunday sees us hosting our annual Holocaust Memorial Day service.

This year's theme is 'Untold Stories'. Here's the preamble from HMD :

"It’s easy to talk about the numbers murdered and persecuted during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. It’s less easy to appreciate what these figures mean. The millions murdered under the Nazi regime of hatred aren’t a statistic. They were individuals. Somebody’s friend. A mother. A father. A child. A colleague. A neighbour.

There are millions of stories we will never know. But we can still honour the memory of those affected by genocide by playing a part in these Untold Stories. We can listen and learn from them, we can tell others the stories we hear. Some stories are not easy to hear. They can speak of danger, pain and suffering. We must not shy away from these stories – it is vital to recognise the consequences of exclusion and persecution in order for us to learn the lessons of the past.

We all have the power to play a part in the lives and words that are remembered, it is our role to ensure that the Untold Stories from the past do not get lost. On HMD 2011, we are asking everyone to tell these stories that enable us to learn from history, from the real stories of those who are no longer with us in order to create a safer, better future.


And something to watch.


HMD 2011 Untold Stories from Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on Vimeo.

Not too late to include HMD in your Sunday service, and if you think it is, start planning for next year.

Pax

Looking like God

I know we all hope to become a bit more like God every day as we progress along with our Christian walk and discipleship and today I think I might be just be getting there.

Today, whilst sorting the washing I became just a bit more like God, the father of all creation and in fact engaged in copying Him in his creation techniques to perfection.

"How?" I hear you cry.

It was simple I separated the light from the dark!

Who ever said being a Christian was diificult? I'm going to buy a pump next week and try to separate the waters from the dry land - no stopping me now, think I'm on the upward path!

Time for a nap (and take my pills).

Pax

ps. Doctor says I'm probably getting worse (at least mentally)

An Edwin Barnestormer!

I love the opening words from former Bishop of Richborough, Edwin Barnes:

"With so many clergy and lay people leaving the Church of England for the Ordinariate, is one of those little point-making exercises that make little point and perhaps highlight something that makes me wonder a little about yet another piece of [insert your assessment here]! The opening leads one to suppose that perhaps you're in for yet another dose of posturing.

But get past the first few words and you will, I hope, like me applaud his analysis of the situation in that there's no way that those who swim will win because there are a number of wallies on all sides of the equation here! (my words, not his) The distrust and the lack of charity, from all sides, is a sad hallmark of the of the inferiordinariate and he's right when he says judgments will range from, and include:

Having been timid and held back

Having been headstrong and acted too quickly

Cast aspersions on those taking a different path (ironic how some who are staying 'faithful' to their calling are being maligned and slighted for their constancy and a determination to see the CofE remain a reformed and catholic church.

It's not just with regard to the Superiordinariate that we need to be looking restoring Christian charity amongst the brethren. edwin points out, quite rightly, that the situation is tough for those losing friends and colleagues and for those who have won them, especially those who struggle with celibacy and see their new colleagues with wife, kids and all that they are forbidden.

An interesting and wonderfully gentle read from a man who is indeed both things incarnate. Edwin Barnes

Enjoy.

Ecumenical Errors?

I regularly hear people moaning about the various events that go on in their local 'Churches Together' group. A 'for instance' being a group that has been involved in, and advertised amongst the local churches, political events, Youth Evangelism, Zionist, Pro-life and fund-raising events under its 'Churches Together' banner.

Now, one of the first rules of ecumenical engagement is that we won't always be putting on events that will float the boat of every minister, member or even congregation, but the whose point of being together is to publicise, pray and perhaps even attend that event. We might learn something, we might teach something and regardless we will be able to fellowship and engage and dialogue!

This is one of the potential strengths with an ecumenical approach in that we seek to share what we have from the position we come from. That some vote with their feet because they don't like the topic, viewpoint or belief is one of the weaknesses and says that the group is less 'together' than perhaps people would like to imply or state!

A second, valuable and important, point is that there are a number of issues which beset the Church (universal) these days and some of these foster assumptions regarding churches. I have recently had a discussion with someone who supports their local group but avoids contact with it because of the perceived 'weaknesses' and 'errors' . These focus on the usual stuff, such as homosexuality and whether it is a right lifestyle in a Christian setting, attitudes towards pro-life issues, orthodoxy over revisionist or liberal thinking, alcohol and myriad numbers of other issues.

The reality is that some will take the position that homosexuality is right, others will be undecided whilst still more will support it as a legitimate Christian practice.

Some people are hung up about israel and see the nation state as being the people of God. Others see Israel as a spiritual body! Some will look at Palestine and will want to make a stand against Israel on the strength of what they see. We each have a right to hold our views (although I'd have to issue the caveat 'as long as they are Biblical', but that's my view of course - just as what constitutes 'Biblical' might be considered a view).

Some people have no problem with abortion and other issues which would set the 'pro-life' member ablaze with campaigning fervour and mutterings about murder and the like. Again, we have our views and they will differ - this is, once more, what 'Churches Together' brings out.

Some struggle over women priests whilst others struggle with the concept of 'priest' [full stop!]. Some consider paedobaptism to be wrong whilst others consider the anabaptist approach or re-baptising as directly acting contrary to Scripture. Some refuse to baptise at all unless it's on their terms! Yep, we're a pretty mixed-up and contrasting bunch of believers. . . But this is where the strength of being a 'Church' also lies!

We meet to share where we can, to seek the image of God in one another and to share in the propagation of the Gospel, to build THE CHURCH where you are, not just YOUR OWN church.

When people come who want what we don't have in our fellowship I send them on to other fellowships so that they might be blessed in a place that fits their beliefs and bless them by their presence. This is what 'Churches Together' is about.

I am being careful here not to put my own positions on Israel, homosexuality, baptism, women in the Church, Abortion (or anything else) into the mix, for it is not about my views. This issue of ecumenical engagement is a timely and most welcome one to pop up on the horizon at this time, for it is a discussion that many fellowships and gatherings probably need to have and one which needs to be considered frankly and honestly. I will come clean on my views regarding anything and everything if asked by the way, but it's not about personalities but about attitudes, thought processes and practices!

I have hobbies where some of the lectures on offer excite me greatly whilst others leave me cold. I go to those that attract me and some which might enlighten me a little on a subject I think I know and have no interest in and always find they are beneficial. Surely if the world can do this so too can the Church?

I will repeat a story I have told before [yawn!]:

Back in the early nineties I was involved with some stuff to do with the local 'Churches Together' group. I was persuaded to go to a meeting of said group and after some insipid fellowship (grey in colour) we had some sharing (superficial with thinly veiled distrust and well-polished hypocrisy) which was followed by the Eucharist, Communion, breaking of bread, agape or whatever it was called. To do this part of the meeting about four groups were assigned rooms so that they could do whatever it was they did!

When I asked what was going on , I was shown their constitution, "To share in the unity of the body of Christ* and to serve and build the Church in nnnnnnnn"

I looked at the footnotes and there it was: "Except where doctrinal, denominational or other differences apply!"

This finished me engaging with anything ecumenical, for wherever I went I found the same to be true (whether stated or merely enacted) wheresoever the caravan stopped. Some groups are a refreshing change from this at many levels, and I hope they will continue to be so, whilst those who are not might take a leaf from their pages.

Christians need to have full, frank and open conversations and to do so quickly before they find the fragmentation and the descending of churches and fellowships into their own 'small corner', taking the light with us leave the shepherdless sheep to fall prey to others who would steal them away!

Pax

Two in the morning

And I hear the steady breathing of the one I love, next to me, indicating deep sleep.

On my feet, her snores resounding and vibrating like an old motorcycle, lies our old chocolate Labrador.

The youngest child has just popped in to say they can't sleep.

And here I am, coughing, wheezing and generally yeuk, thinking about. Well to be honest, a jumble of things. A mishmash of sensible, irrational and some just plain weird thinking (so I'm 'normal' for me I guess).

My thoughts have focussed on healing and what we should expect, how we should engage with it and why and how we should approach it when the door opens again. "my ear hurts," is just about intelligible through the sobs. So I move over and allow the baby between us, thoughts gone - need before me!

If God healed everyone, then Church would be full of people wanting the 'full service' and a pain-free, comfortable existence. If God healed no one, then He'd have a hard job convincing people of His love, power or presence. Is healing the reason some come into Church, and if so, are they happy consumers?

If He chooses to heal some, but not others, is He a mean, selective, judgmental or even capricious being?

Pain is part of life and without it can we understand what 'painless' is? I recall reading a book 'Puzzle of Pain' by Robert Melzack. On this book, it described people who had a congenital inability to feel pain. They damaged joints because, feeling no discomfort, they rarely shifted their weight. Knees were the first to go! Feeling no pain, they scald or dear flesh when in the kitchen. Pain is what helps us to protect ourselves and supports living a long and secure (physically and mentally/emotionally) life.

But when this valuable and little lauded attribute of life comes knocking, perhaps with words like 'terminal' and classifications that include 'malignant', what then?

What do we do when, "Pain goes bad?"

This is something I need to understand, especially in a life that sees people bringing their sick, and their dead, to my door. When they come from nought to ninety and need a friend. Need to understand. Need just a touch from God, where am I?

Trite words, made hollow by the non-appearance of healing (and is What they think healing is the same as mine?), muttered platitudes or hollow excuses ("Where is your god? Perhaps he's on the toilet!").

What is it we bring to the party? How do we do it? How do we pray?

Do we set those who come to us up for a disappointment or God to look absent or impotent because of the way we pray and the expectations we have (or perhaps don't have!). How do we pray in 'God's Name'?

And then the question. "what about those who are healed?"

Pax

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Blogging from a position of weakness

Just had a telephone call which asked me about blogging from someone who has realised that they have something to say that the Church needs to hear. They quoted several of the 'authoritative' sites which provide a focus (and public stage) for those ever so important bloggers out there. Having read some of those quoted I recognised the names as being people who were legends in their own lunchtimes and that some even managed to be THE finger on the pulse and THE first, last and absolute word on the issue (especially if it was a very narrow issue!).

This person had stumbled across and read my blog and wondered whether it was as popular as I'd like and whether I needed to be more 'out there' regarding some of the 'big issues'!!!

I had to ask what they meant by that and was told that the big league of quoted, feted and refered to blogs were taking on the big issues and not merely commenting but leading the people into awareness and shaping their thinking and attitudes. Well, I do discuss the big issues, which for me is being a credible witness, taking the Gospel out there and living it and helping others to do the same. For me the big issues are persistent sin in the lives of those around me and in my life in particular.

The big issues for me are to try and avoid spin, to make sure that the blog is me and not some façade or soapbox that places me on a pedestal as an expert or authority because I am not (obviously!). The blog represents the workings of my addled brain and is often a scratchpad for my own internal dialogue or the extension of a discussion and some ideas for those with whom I engage in the areas of missoner, vocations or other work within theChurch.

Having explained all this, I was asked what I thought of a couple of the more aggressive blogs out there. I took a quick look and realised that some people must spend more time on their blogs than they do ministry! I know that preaching training often tells us to leave our listeners mad, glad or sad but a number of the blogs I looked at displayed the author to either be mad, sad, mean or totally unChristian.

So here's a five tips for blogging as I see it:

1. If you're going to blog, do so for yourself and not to become a source!

2. If you want to be famous then go and discover the cure for cancer, I don't think that blogging will do it for you.

3. If your blogging isn't fun to do, then don't do it.

4. If you find yourself looking at everything as potential blog material, if you find every conversation you have being examined for its blogability, then you shouldn't be blogging!

5. If what you write isn't at least one of the following - fun, challenging, eye-raising, amusing, provocative, compelling, personal - and ALWAYS YOU, then I don't think blogging is the right place for you to be.

I found a wonderful blog of teaching from someone who obviously thinks they are an authority and yet clearly demonstrated that they are merely able to plagiarise (at best) and and are in dire need of some good theological education (and perhaps some proper shepherding or pastoral care too!). There are so many experts and authorities out there, so unless you really are, don't pretend to be one.

Honesty, weaknesses recognised, limitations never denied and humility (and the ability to laugh at yourself) are the essentials - for every part of the Christian walk.

I hope this helps (now back to sleep for a bit - thanks for the 'get well' comments by the way).

Pax

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Getting the disabled back to work

JT made a comment a while back about the fact that blind people are discriminated against:

"In view of the climate we live in, I ask why oh why is it that blind people are not given driving licences? It's total, iniquitous discrimination. Yes, the blind drivers are very likely to do themselves much harm, and others also, but the same is true if you face the facts as opposed to the convenient mythology, regarding anal intercourse intercourse, as promoted by sex educators, the government/media etc., and that doesn't stop the "liberation" of the "equality" laws?

Well, regarding giving the blind, driving licences, I have a tale to tell. This dates back from when I was running an Executive Jobclub during the last century. Are you sitting comfortably?

One of the Jobclub members was an amazingly bright and personable gentleman (who I will call Bob) who took his guide dog everywhere, even bringing him into the Jobclub (where we fed him biscuits and added to his increasing girth. The dog that is, not the blind man!).

It was time when the Employment Agency down in Bromley were pushing for all those who had been put onto Disability Allowances (DA)to be returned to the job market and so all those long-term unemployed who'd be put on DA to decrease the unemployment figures (no, it did happen I assure you!) were given 'back to work interviews. So off trots Blind Bob ably assisted by his dog, who we will call 'Spot' to protect the guilty!

On the way to the interview, Spot leads Bob off to the bus stop. A bus stops and as it's not the right bus, Bob stand by the stop, foot on lead, to wait for the right bus. Sadly, Bob's foot was not on the lead and five minutes later Bob realises that Sport has vanished and he's got his foot on a piece of litter! Bob starts to ask if anyone can see the dog, but he's gone! People start looking, the right bus comes, and goes, and there's no dog!

Suddenly, up screeches a car driven by a bus Inspector with, yep, Spot sitting in the passenger seat with his head hanging out of the window. He was well-known and the driver realising there was only half of the disabled (we called them People With Disabilities, PWDs) duo on the bus had radioed and had him taken back along the route!

Well eventually Bob arrives at the interview, late and tries to explain what had happened. He eventually gets a slot and is seen by an EA (Employment Advisor). He is asked to fill out some forms and after explaining that he can't see too well (and that the dog has lost his pen) they find someone to fill out all the forms. They then call him back to the EA who asks him to complete a nifty little programme we used to run which asks about likes and dislikes and then comes up with three 'perfect match' career paths.

These three, most apt and excellent career roles are entered onto Bob's paperwork and he is told that he will be contacted within 'n' working days with an invitation onto some relevant course of training to get him off the DA and onto JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) alone and then gainful employment. He is given a piece of paper which tells him that failure to attend the course will result in him being taken off of the benefits system and told he can go.

A week later Bob comes to the Jobclub with a letter inviting him to an assessment session with a training provider. If successful with the assessment he will be invited onto a twelve week course with a driving Instructor training scheme, with a guaranteed job at the end of it!

Well Bob went to the initial assessment and oddly enough met another of our members there, a lady with severe epilepsy, who unfortunately also failed the initial assessment! Bob did explain that emergency stops would be O.K. as he could bang the dog on the dashboard to signify that he wanted them to stop! The Epileptic said she didn't consider it to be fitting for her to do the raining!

When I left the wonderful world of unemployement a year or so later they were still bot gainfully unemployed. I also understand that the government are to introduce Jobclubs as a sparkling new initiative shortly - like it says, "There's nothing new under the sun!"

ps. Both of my PWDs had driving licences at some time. Bob had never lost his and so technically could drive, the lady thought her's had been taken after the illness which caused some damage to the barin had stricken her. Still, we all laughed and of course, it shows how wickedly funny PWDs can be, doesn't it?

Trublin Dublin?

The first test of the year for Rowan as the BBC reports that "Up to a third of those invited will boycott the Primate's meeting to be held today in Dublin."

Seems that the problem lies in the fact that Rowan has invited the wicked witch of the West, Katharine Jefferts Schori, to the party. Mind you considering the fact that she and her playmates across the pond have continually flaunted rules, traditional faith and polite requests from Rowan and engaged in the ordination of gay bishops and the blessing of same sex couples, why is she there?

What makes this situation even more newsworthy is the fact that three of those who have decided not to come have, until now, been regarded as moderate. It seems that Rowan's inability to bite the bullet and eject Schori and bring in the emerging traditional element in the shape of the ACNA is taking its toll. Surely the recent news items which presents a picture of the Episcopalian's continued ignoring, ordefiance, of Rowan (and the Anglican Church's) views by ordaining a lesbian bishop, and authorise services for the blessing of same-sex relationships signal the breaking of the Camel's back?

Some Primates are calling for Rowan to move over and let someone who has the courage and commitment to do the job take over and restore some sense of unity to the Anglican Communion. The first challenge to Rowan of the year. A year in which I considered that the man would, having apparently drawn lines, act in accord with them and see out in the role of ABC.

Looks like he has two choices - walk the talk or just walk!

What an exciting life we Anglicans have, almost in the news as much as the Catholics (real and ersatz!).

Pax

ps. I'm actually starting to enjoy this chest infection/stay in be3d thing. Will have to start reading next time |I wake up.

More equal than others?

Not since a joke was made about the 'Toon Army' devastation that visited a nation on Boxing Day a few years back have any football commentators attracted so much media attention! Richard Keys and Andy Gray's 'sexist' comments about assistant referee Sian Massey are bog news and I for one am grateful and a little saddened by them in equal measure.

Saddened because she did a good job of running the line and because the comments and the backlash will, more than likely, see an overcompensation and an overreaction to them. Grateful because it brings the issue to the fore and invites some attention and comment.

I fear that all this equality stuff, especially when accompanied by legislation, actually results in inequality and the supposedly marginalised group becoming more equal than others. Equality is supposed to ensure that all participate on a level playing field. Karen Brady, a football club director herself,appears to support my view:

"What really upsets me is the fact that only females in our industry (football) are judged by their gender and that is categorically wrong."

I don't care what colour your skin is, whether you are male of female, whether you're homosexual or not (with the caveat of celibate minister of course), what you do (or don't believe (within reason of course) - what I do care about is that you engage with those around you properly and that you discharge your role and duties well.

Many years ago, a colleague I regarded as a friend connected the feeder hose from a tanker to the wrong pipe and poured a tanker load of oil into a boiler room rather than the tanks it was destined for. This had never happened before. He'd been chatting and connected it to a vent pipe rather than the tank filler!

Now, the defence was that had the vent pipe not had a thread it would never of happened and therefore it was a disaster waiting to happen. Sadly, this was not the case. The Union supporting the man claimed that disciplinary action was only happening because of the colour of his skin! The ensuing conflict and claims of racism and the like saw those at the top issuing an instruction to give a verbal warning (don't do it again) and to drop the issue before it attracted media attention.

The result was that our friendship was damaged, the attitudes of those around the man was hardened as they saw one rule for the whites and another for those who were black! In all, a poor outcome and one which brought prejudice and division in what had been a solid community.

Whilst on interviewing panels, I was told that we needed to appoint the women candidates as women were 'under represented' in the grade and department. When we asked the personnel observer who brought that news whether that was legal we were told that we were employing 'positive discrimination' procedures to level the numbers. The same situation was employed when we were looking for green card holders (people with disabilities!) because quotas to be met and maintained!

When we interviewed we soon realised that the women we interviewed that day had neither qualification nor experience and we all had the feeling that we wouldn't relish having them on our teams. Ironically the two women were stunners and had they had the qualifications we could have gone with them because they'd get the experience with us anyway! Because we went for those we felt would be able to do the job and fit into the teams (Tech's work as a family and being part of the team is almost more important that the skills you might initially bring - you can develop these) and therefore rejected the women we were told we'd been sexist! Had we employed them because they were pretty or because we were women it seems we wouldn't have been!

Weird or what? Equality means no one is more equal than another regardless. That's actually a Christian principle! Seem to me if it has the words 'equality' or 'discrimination' in it, we need to use caution and a balanced approach for one individual's (look at me Mum, I'm PC!) equality is another's being discriminated against.

Pax

Monday, 24 January 2011

But they're not proper Catholics . . .

Are they?

Met some absolutely lovely people at an ecumenical gathering yesterday (as we are currently beginning the second week of the octet of prayer for Christian unity). I was there as the Chairman of the local 'Churches Together' group and we held a town centre celebration to mark the fact that we really do work together.

We had some visitors from an RC church who were visiting family and came with them. I have to be honest and say that they surprised me a little in that their take on the subordinariate was a little cool and perhaps even a tad negative. They seemed to regard the new group as not being Anglicans but also not being fully Catholic! A sort of bastardised sub-class of people who didn't want to be Church of England but weren't quite whatever it was to become fully Catholic!

I was quite shocked by this take on things as I assumed that the whole of the RC plc organisation would be leaping with joy at the increase to their priestly ranks and the swelling of the bums of pew population by the transfer of sheep to the fields alongside the Tiber. Not so! Perhaps this is because where we find ourselves isn't near enough to the trendy South to be part of the excitement and that the apathy (or even antipathy) is merely a local condition.

The reality is that for those in my area they don't see it making any difference to their daily, or even Sunday, church life and it's all a bit. I thought the comment of one person was a bit shocking when they said that importing even more mysoginists was probably the last thing the church of Rome needed. They needed people who were engaged with society and willing to examine the really important questions and, "If they had to run from their own church, what confidence does it give us that they will be faithful once moved?"

Another spoke of the Murphy report and how the already weakened church needed men of integrity and solid Catholicity to overcome the many negatives and support what was, in their view, a weakened church. They spoke of the days when presbyteries had a number of priests living in them and the situation now where they find perhaps one priest serving more than one congregation and some not managing a Sunday service every Sunday.

I find this sad and have decided to make sure I pray for vocations in the RC church on a regular basis, as this is not a satisfactory state of affairs.

I find this even sadder that apart from the PR and the razzmatazz that surrounds the moves in London and the places perhaps they were ministering - seems that there is less to the inordinariate than meets the eye! I hope not, for to have left 'home' and gone to 'Rome' to find it's not the promised land that some hope for would be even sadder.

Pax

Inordinariate mumblings . . . goes fourth

According to the RC bishop of Brentwood there are seven Anglican priests and about three hundred of the (un)faithful bums on pews (bops) who are currently having swimming lessons.

Now the three fatherless Essex fathers who are identified as being in Benfleet, Hockley and Chelmsford (not too hard to guess who then) are currently getting things ready for the trip in secret. (Well not anymore because of course we know those who lives in those three places and have a copy of the Missal, don't we?).

Those poor fatherless fathers living in East London will fare a little better as they can remain hidden and continue to take their stipends up until the last minute (and live in their CofE provided homes too!) which to me smacks of duplicity and a healthy dose of hypocrisy too! If they want to go then they should have the hutzpah to make their stand and go. Of course if they had any integrity and really wanted to be RC there are already means by which they can become 'real Catholics' rather than become Catholics of the ersatz sort that the inferiordinate presents).

I still find it funny that people are claiming that the swim is over anything but women bishops, gay clergy, same-sex blessings and the erosion of a traditional Anglo-catholic faith. Amongst those who go will be homosexuals (some of whom are in relationship with people of the same mond and sex! After all the go because of ecclesiology and not personal sin. The former being women's ordination and the latter being the homosexual issue.

I still find it sad that the ordinary Fr Newton speaks of ecumenical gestures and of sharing in the ministry and yet in doing so denies the reality of the lines that are being drawn and the rancour, vitriol and bile that those going (or more often, those posing as one who might be going) are bringing to this.

Bennie is going to get his pre-Vatican II stalewarts to bolster the slippage that Rome (and the Magic Circle that is the UK and Ireland) fears and will draw the faithful to its doors. Of course there has to be an infidelity to get them there!!

I also wonder how some will fare when they have to either get a 'proper job' (a quote, not my words!) or rely upon the good offices of the RC church? As I understand it, it is a 'fund yourselves' affair and this will prove tough for some. Apparently there are some who have offered money to support the new creation, reckon they are going to need it.

And as the CofE needs its money to fund parishes and continue its good work, perhaps those who are going (or have left) would like to stop taking money from a body to whom they no longer have any allegiance and thus prevent us from building the kingdom. After all, that's what Fr Newton says is the first care of those who are going - so prove it (please)!

Pax et Paxo (apply as is fitting)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

I'm Phobophobic!

I've heard so much about Islamophobia this week (thank you Baroness Warsi) and came across an interview with a Jewish academic who spoke of Judeophobia as part of his discussion on Islamophobia and of course with the couple who refused a couple of homosexuals a room we've had it up to, somewhere or other, with all this 'fear of' stuff.

The Jewish chap was speaking of the fact that a phobia is basically a 'a persistent, irrational fear of a something (an object, activity, or situation) that brings about a compelling desire to avoid it. He went on to point out that the actions of spiritual leaders who applaud the assassination of the Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, because he challenged the blasphemy laws and the stabbing of MP, Stephen Timmns, as a reprisal for his voting in favour of the Iraq War, demonstrated that it wasn't a 'phobia'. After all, there is nothing irrational about fearing a group who will commission, commit or applaud such acts.

It seems to me that there are far too many people who claim that not embracing, or applauding, their lifestyle choices is in fact *****phobia.

I would have to say that those who resort to the cry of, "You merely ****phobic' are acting out of duplicitous, corrupt and mischievous motives. I don't think I'm 'phobic' about anything except those who seek to make what they do, how the live or what they think legitimate, and protected, by the use of the word phobia itself!

Let's see - I don't choose to be Jewish and although I don't support Israel's acts regarding Palestine, Mordecai Vanunu and other issues, I'm not Judeophobic.

I don't see Islam as being my religion of choice and although coming a little late to the party perhaps (610 AD ish) and containing a great deal of Judeo-Christian material I still wouldn't fancy it. Of course not all followers of Islam are terrorists and there is much to commend the philosophies within it, I don't shoose to be one. But again, this does not make me Islamophobic!

I have seen a great many excesses and behaviour which for moral, social, ethical and religious reasons make homosexuality something that don't choose to practice. Were it that, as some would say, that it is not a choice but something over which there is no choice, then I would seek (as a Christian) to be celibate. But although it could be a choice, I choose not to make it. But this doesn't render me homophobic either!

Here's the bottom line, I am a phobophobic! It's something that I am obviously genetically disposed to and have no choice but to ignore the whining of those who seek to label anything that stands opposed to them as a phobia. My reasons for not choosing, disliking or opposing stuff are altogether rational and extremely well-founded, even when some in today's society would like to see the attitudes change. Isn't this as true for those who'd like to see us endorse and openly permit paedophile activity or incestuous relationships?

The fact that some are already discussing this in their legal considerations just goes to show that if we wait long enough, moral values and standards will slip enough to permit anything.

There are many things that float the boats of others and yet don't find me engaging with them. There are things that I enjoy which others don't.

These are choices and these are differences - we all make them, we all have make them. So when I don't applaud yours - grow up and live with it, don't try doing it in my face and I'll try not to do it in yours! If you don't want to be where some people with differing views are, then don't go there - and if you do, don't expect your choice to be the overarching one and your views to be the superior because truth is:

ALL TOO OFTEN THEY AREN'T!

So go and do it somewhere else, there's a nice bunch of people.

Pax

Friday, 21 January 2011

Four funerals and no weddings!

It's Friday and this week's (four) funerals are done and I have to say, "I love doing them!"

So many people ask me what the role of a dog-collar is. My response often includes the reality that it is part of my job to help people live well and die well, for we only do both once! We can revisit acts in our lives and can resolve to change how we act, think and live but when it comes to dying, we only sit that examination once and we should aim to do it as well as we can.

Since the beginning of this month I have seen some people do it exceptionally well. A couple of examples being the person who thanked the carers as their shift was ending, because they wouldn't see them in the morning. Their response was, "Of course you will, see you tomorrow!" but when the carers arrived the next day they found that the their charge had indeed peacefully slipped away in their sleep!

Another person I visited was anointed, prayed with and then began to doze off as we chatted (I have that effect). I told them that sleep was a good idea (they'd had a rough day) and sat there as they fell into a lovely sleep. As I left the nurse popped in to do the ob's and the next time they popped in, they found the patient had gone!

Not all of us can die as well as that, peacefully in our sleep. Not all of us will die at 87 (my average funeral age). But, we can make sure that when we do we do it knowing who we are in God and knowing of His love and provision for us. Even the most ill person can die healed and whole!

When I started in ministry, one of my colleagues told me how they hated 'bloody weddings!' and that funerals were the best part of the role. I have come to find that they were right in their assessment for a number of reasons and at a number of levels:

Weddings They want the lady what does hair, the man with the camera (or these days a 'videographer!!!), the woman what does the catering, the dog-collar what has the pretty building (but want to leave God out of the proceedings - we just want the photo-opportunity!), the booze-up (and subsequent fight?) and more besides.

Funerals They need a friend. Someone who will come into their loss and help them make sense of it. Someone who will help them see the person who has died, sometimes for the very first time, as they are and help them understand who they were and what made them who they are. They need reality and realism, not "Everyone goes to heaven and the loved one is sitting on a cloud with Auntie Ethel and Granddad looking down!" Neither do they need (as one person I know does) words which tell them that their loved one wasn't saved and therefore is bound for eternity in hell! Those who have gone, have gone and (secondary probation excepted) our task is with the living and so we share the Gospel, the realised hope that because of jesus and the cross there is more than just life here.

Weddings? You can have them - give me funerals and people who hurt and of course, with funerals the customers don't come back for a repeat service, not (sadly) the same for those who get married these days (marriage prep?, being responsible with those we marry? Don't get me started!!!)

Mind you, I hear rumours that the fees for weddings are set to double, that should help reduce the numbers a bit. Let's hope they leave the funerals alone, eh?

Pax

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Who are we?

I thought this was an excellent piece of media:

Unfair Accommodation?

One of the commentators on the hotelier debate said that "Christians have to accept the fact that attitudes, acts and lifestyles which were unacceptable twenty-five years ago are now acceptable and approved. Things changed because people made a stand, challenged conventions and got the force of the law behind them and people who don't like this situation must learn to accept or live with this for this is how it's going to be".

What a great display of skewed logic and hypocrisy combined we find in those words.

If it is right for some to campaign about restriction of freedom and rights then surely it is also right for those who, because of the changes, find their freedom, rights and integrity (social, secular and religious) challenged or restricted to do the same. The problem is that Christians appear, generally, to be unable to do this for a number of reasons. These reasons range from a wrong positioning or engagement (and action) and the fact that the minute they try to engage or make a stand they are met with accusations of homophobic activity or an inability (unwillingness?) from those who support the sexual liberalities to listen.

Now, at a personal level I'm happy for people to live out their own choices. I might not endorse their actions but that's their right, just as it is my right not to choose to do the same things or consider them to be right. I have an added dynamic in that I am called to warn those I see doing something that is hazardous to them, even when perhaps societal values and attitudes might not agree (anymore) with this. The reality being that just because man makes something legal, this does not remove the Biblical warrant regarding it.

Take your pick here for there are many areas which fall into this category: living together (which is not cohabitation or common law marriage - and for some is merely a "Long-term shag!*"), Abortion, homosexuality and many more issues besides. Now, I try to engage with people on this topic through developing a relationship and by using the Galatians Six instruction about "restoring people 'gently."

I consider those who send images of aborted foetuses through the post as misguided and contra-Christian; those who act like Phelps and Jones over Christian rights, values and engagement to have nothing to do with Christ and see them as merely working for the enemy! We need to be balanced, consistent and Christian and this issue brings forth much more than just the considerations of the hotelier case. It outlines the difficulty Christians have in making their stand and maintaining their integrity when one side is considered to have more rights and power than the other! It is about the very fabric of democracy and personal rights!

It challenges us to work out how we engage effectively and consistently within the Biblical standards and attitudes we are required live in and communicate this to others. It challenges us to bring a realistic, logical and balanced engagement with people who obviously (in the main) are not!

*One of the couples I counselled a few years back declared their intention to split and when asked about their relationship, this was the response! Not what I expected but perhaps a more honest take on their situation!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Hate Crimes

The hotelier debate has brought forth some interesting responses. One of which was the gentleman on Radio Five who made the point that the hoteliers action was merely homophobic, for he new many 'good' Christians who had no problem with homosexuality and had chosen to ignore all that 'Leviticus stuff'.

The person supporting the hoteliera tried to explain that, for the majority of Christians, ignoring bits of the Bible wasn't an option for Gods Word stands for ever. But of course he was talked over and effectively ignored!

If I am a vegetarian and choose to eat some meat products I apparently cease to be vegetarian. If a Christian chooses to discount (traditional or orthodox) biblical content, those outside the Christian body (and those within who want to be told they are right) endorse this act and pronounce them, and their attitudes, as being 'Christian'!

Interesting how some people assume they can decide what is right for those members of a group which they neither belong to nor understand. Self-serving or what? Is this not doing exactly what the hoteliers are considered to have done? Can it be wrong for them and yet fair game for those who wish to oppose them? I don't think so!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

An average day at the crem'

Turned up for the first of my funerals to see smoke looming large above the building. Fearing a problem with the filters I looked round the back to find twenty-plus people furiously puffing away on their cigarettes behind the crem'!

Phew, no problems with the kit and better still many more, eager, prospective customers (thank you for smoking, have a nice day!).

Looking into the chapel I noticed something you don't see everyday, a coffin emblazoned with, "I told you I was ill!" (Which are also the words on Spike Milligan's headstone). Well, it was first for me!


It's always good down at the crematorium because one sees all of life there (you know what I mean) and there are a number of enjoyable bits to fill your day.

Hey ho - all done and now back to do some more funeral visits (and enjoy more tea).

Happy Tuesday peeeps!

Christian Hoteliers acted Unlawfully

I have just been telephoned with the news.

The person who rang me added a comment, "No (something or other) Sherlock!"

I think they felt that it was obvious that they acted outside the law and this appears to have been the view of many that I encountered when the story forst broke.

A sadness but not an unexpected outcome. The problem is how can we apply equally the right to hold views and maintain rights?

This needs some real thinking and some proper investigation. It doesn't need posing, return episodes of entrapment or people rushing around screaming 'persecution!' It's not, it about being wise as serpents - gentle as doves.

The battle is engaged - let's use our heads and employ sound (and lawful) tactics - for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, are they?

Off to work!

Having your wafer and eating it?

I'm am astonished that Fr Keith Newton, the ordinary of the subordinariate, whilst seeking to avoid any “rancour or bad feeling” between Anglicans and those who swim the Tiber hopes that the swimmers me be able to share properties with the Church of England in “specific places”.

He says that, “It obviously depends on the numbers who are going from that congregation. We do not want any rancour or bad feeling. I would hope that there is a possibility of some ordinariate groups sharing a church which they have used before but we will have to look at these on an individual basis.”

One press report (Catholic) says that this is a gesture towards 'Church Unity'. I have to perhaps offer a suggestion and another gesture.

The suggestion is that it is bordering on the ridiculous to leave a church building, possibly taking some of the sheep with you, for another denomination and then hope to be able to use that same building (or another from the very same firm you have separated yourself from) as a venue. To position this as a move that will foster ecumenical relations is duplicitous, stupid, stark-raving bonkers when all they needed for unity in that building was to stay and preach the Gospel.

Mind you, it could catch on. Tamworth doesn't have a Tesco's, perhaps Sainbury's could let them have some of their venue for this is as absurd as that which Fr Newton seeks! We are not in competition, but we do have two very different denominations and two very different sets of core beliefs (Articles of the thirty-nine kind! and theology of the reformed to add to the catholicity aspects). Speaks volumes about the subordinariate - they have buildings at their disposal don't they? Or could it be that the Roman Catholic Parish Priests are that keen to house the cross-breed structure either?

And the gesture?

I'm far to polite to use it!

Let's hope that the pointyheads aren't!

Pax

Monday, 17 January 2011

They're the wrong words, Gromit!

Heaven preserve us from those people who change the words of hymns, songs and choruses!

I know I've mentioned it before but when you arrive at a church or crem' and find yourself handed a sheet with that old familiar hymn, 'Make me a channel of your peace', it seems fair to assume that you might just know the words. Think again! (Correct lines in bold)

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me bring Your love,
Where there is injury, Your pardon Lord,
And where there's doubt, true faith in You

Oh Master, grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, let me bring light,
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope,
And where there's sadness, bring Your joy
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Oh Master, grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul

Make me a channel of your peace,
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, let me bring Your light,
And where there's sadness, bring Your joy

Oh Master, grant that I may never seek,
So much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love with all my soul

Make me a channel of your peace,
For when we give, we will ourselves receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And in dying that we gain eternal life
And in dying that we gain eternal life


The last stanza is completely wrong, for it should be

Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving to all me that we receive,
And in dying that we ‘re born to eternal life.


A funeral I did last year appeared with Psalm 23 modified thus: The Lord's my shepherd I not want, He makest me to down lie . . When I asked the person who made the service sheets I received the answer. "I'm not religious and so I went to the internet and looked the words up!"

I'm not a medical man but apparently if I look it up on the internet I could probably do brain surgery on them! Quick nurse, sterilise that house-brick!

I'll leave you enjoy this one:
Lo! Jesus meets us, rising from the tomb;
Lovingly He greets us, scatt'ring fear and gloom;
Let the church with gladness, her hymns triumphant sing;
For the Lord he liveth, death has lost its sting.

Thine is the glory, risen conq'ring Sun . . .


Pax (to most of you but a severe chinese-burn to the naughty word-changers!)

So Ordinary. . .

We didn't even mention it!

Despite the triumphalism, the ordination (which many claim clearly demonstrates that any former ordination was 'invalid'), the mass (sic!) exodus to the ordinariate didn't get a mention in our service yesterday. It wasn't even brought up in conversation during the tea, coffee and biscuits afterwards! The reality is that for our little church, this is essentially a non-issue!

We see transfer growth within the churches, groups and fellowships in Tamworth all the time, it's what they do! The majority of the transient sheep group move from place to place in search of something or other that will excite and 'bless'. A few move with pointed toes and a point to make and here's the sadness, for they are rarely missed and the point they seek to make rarely finds flesh being added to the bones of their discontent. All too often it is little more than a few toys thrown out of the pram and the damage is always slight and felt only by those who seek to inflict it.

The assessment of this by one leader sums it up nicely, "Thank goodness they've gone - they're someone else's problem now, and they're welcome to them!" Harsh words, but often words that are also true, regardless of the skills, gifts or money they might be taking with them.

I'm happy to send anyone who wishes to leave with a blessing. It's been said that as we don't lose that many this is an easy position to take, which might be true, but it is also a biblical position too (and that's what matters)and so pray that God will bless the Walsingham three as they enjoy their promised land.

Here, this week, our focus turns to five funerals this week, cancer, strokes, depressive illnesses, debt, broken families and nations at war (civil and other), natural disasters,starving children, homelessness and so many other important issues that a few people leaving for their 'True church' isn't even an issue.

Here we struggle to support families and discern just which challenges we engage with (so much work, so few workers) as the new year unfolds.

Swimming the Tiber means nothing outside either, the people outside our door are struggling with debt, addictions and the effect of them (alcohol, drugs, sex and gambling all feature large). The ordination of women, homosexuality and disaffected clergy hold no attraction or concern. They struggle with the real issues (for them) and perhaps this puts the posturing and posing into perspective - seems many of us dog-collars have lost the plot and made the calling about us and what we want rather than the calling that brings us cure of souls!

Pax

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Look - The Lamb of God!

"The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptising with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptise with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, ithe Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
John 1: 29 - 4

John the Baptist (JtB) introduces Jesus to some of the guys, but uses a bit of a different way of introducing Him. "Take a look guys, the Lamb of God!" This is more than an introduction, it is a full blown revelation )it one of the things that makes John's Gospel such a powerful and vey different Gospel from the synoptics matt.Mk & Lk). He follows the Old testament pattern whereby prophets catch sight of a person and declare "LOOK . . . . ." (a good example being Samuel upon first seeing Saul in 1 Sam 19, "LOOK, (says God) here is the man who will rule over my people!). John does exactly the same.

Now JtB knows what He is doing and knows that he will lose his followers to jesus. But it's not about having our own little flock but about the wider picture, and John not only knows that but lives it every day of his life. The disciples follow Jesus, who stops and turning to face them asks what they're looking for. I don't think they know, other than they want to be right with God (and of course, physically speaking, even if they don't yet realise it, they are!). they want to be taught, and so they follow and stay with Him all day (no one service a week mentality here!).

One of the guys, Andrew, goes and gets his brother Simon, telling him some exciting news, "We have found the Messiah!' Now, unless Andrew was the family flake who was finding Messiah's and new campaigns every day, I'd have been racing to see this revelation. But regardless of whether they ambled or raced, jesus and Simon find themselves in the same place and looking at him (Peter), Jesus says, "You are to be called 'Cephas'."

An interesting thing really for Jesus knows who he is and better still, before we even met Him, knew us and the name we had and the new name and calling we knew not. All the days numbered for us, as the Psalmist says (Ps 139) and all that we are called to do are known to Him. He is the Pascal Lamb, the Lamb of God who comes to take away our sins and set us free from the power of sin and the penalty of death.

Hallelujah!

Inordinariate mumblings . . . part the third

It might be prudent to reflect upon the excellent words from the blog of David Lindsay (always a good read)

" . .. But the word on the Anglo-Catholic street is that the Ordinariate proposal is ridiculous.

Just as the worst liturgical abuses on this side of the Tiber are mostly in London or its orbit and are dying out even there, so the most exotic aspects of Forward in Faith are mostly in London or its orbit and are dying out even there. There is a more than a happy medium to be struck by clergy who come over having used the Modern Roman Rite tastefully, reverently and sensibly for decades, in many cases all their lives.

Parishes the length and breadth of the land are crying out for such priests. Should the men who could meet that need revert to, or adopt for the first time, the full English Missal flora and fauna of 1950s Anglo-Papalism? That is as absurd to them as it is to me. The provision for the Latin Rite ordination of married convert clergy goes all the way back to Pius XII.

As for being aimed at the Traditional Anglican Communion, again the views of the Anglo-Catholic mainstream are in line with those of many of the rest of us. If that body really is active in 66 countries, then in which 66 countries, exactly? If it really does have hundreds of thousands of faithful, then who are they, and where are they?

This whole thing may be playing well in London, at Oxford and on the South Coast. But in all parts North (and, no doubt, West), it is being dismissed as an irrelevance and an absurdity.

All in all, it was heartening stuff. "If I were going to become a Roman Catholic, then I would just get on and do it", and, even better, "If you are going to do it, then you should do it properly, and become part of a normal Roman diocese and parish". Quite."

How very true and balanced a view this is. I think it is here that we find the crux of the issue many are having with the inordinariate posturing and whilst it might not find favour with all, it presents another facet in the gem that is Anglican and demonstrates the underlying feeling of many high, low and middle.

Applause and thanks for a thoughtful piece . . they aren't all (as we will see).

Pax

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Inordinariate mumblings . . . part the second

I was, as I often am, impressed by the 'honesty' that clayboy brought to this proceedings a week back with his coverage, and assessment, of a Ruth (I used to read her stuff until the Thunderer started charging you know!) Gledhill interview with John Broadhurst.

Here's a copy of the interview:



And here's Clayboy's take on it:

"Clayboy really doesn’t simply want to be a cynical grump about this, although he finds both Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton rather more congenial for being restrained in their comments. He wishes those who want to become Roman Catholics well.

However, despite the implications of great sacrifice with which La Gledhill ends her puff-piece, clayboy would like to note that, as far as he can work out, Mr Broadhurst is 68, has been in Anglican orders for 43 years, and goes out as an area bishop. As such he is, if I am not mistaken, going to be in receipt of around £20,000 a year (2/3 of final stipend) from the Church of England as a pension, whatever his theological allegiance.

It doesn’t sound like a huge sacrifice to me."


Can I say that, in my book, Clayboy is pretty much spot on the money (he must be, after all, we agree!) and although some might not like his views (some claiming that he is rather 'uncharitable') I don't think he's that far off the mark.

Let's be fair, I have a friend who because of his integrity and the views he holds over women's ordination would leave the Church of England, even it it meant giving up his calling to become a lay member in the Catholic church rather than lose his integrity. This is the place that I find many of my Forward in Faith (FiF) colleagues occupying. There are some who, perhaps because of their pain are lashing out and being a little spiteful (human nature at work!), but these have (in my experience) been the minority.

Having retired and moved into a retirement home on the banks of the Tiber appears less sacrificial than that being considered by the majority of those I know - but then again, a greater profile means many other benefits and considerations, more than those which the average high churchman might expect (and definitely more than they'd receive)..

Good, honest and balanced words as I read Clayboy's article. He doesn't agree but he does't turn into a screaming bitch, or a vindictive sort either - I can but commend his post.

Inordinariate mumblings. . . part the first

I think there might just be a little too much posturing regarding this whole slightly less than extra-ordinariate myself.

Having read a few blogs on this topic during the week, I found more than a little over-egging the proceedings that will take place today when the following questions were asked on the  St John the Baptist blog:

"Where were you when JFK was shot?"

"Where where you when the white smoke came from the Sistine Chapel that elected Pope Benedict?"

"Where were you when the Ordinariate began?"

The answers are easy.

Question One - Sitting at home wondering why there wasn't anything on the television except a blank screen with a few words and sombre music.

Question Two - Don't have clue, wasn't an issue of an import for me any more than wondering who was to be the next Chief Rabbi! Recognise I'm never going to be short-listed

Question Three - Not sure, when did it begin? Could it be the first announcement or the second announcement or the first time someone spoke of leaving or Broadhurst's announcement or any one of oh so many announcements, proclamations, threats, promises.

A question of real import though. "Who's the top London Club in the Premiership?"

Pax

So it's Farewell . .

So farewell Burnham, Broadhurst and Newton - you've gone!
The clocks won't stop, the mirrors will not be covered nor the curtains drawn.
Shoppers will pass by closed church doors without even knowing you'd been born!
And yet, within where Missal stands and incense slowly clears,
There will be some who miss you much my dears!

But where women pray and liberals frolic,
Your act today is just [err] more stuff*,
And for those who learnt their faith at mother's knee,
This act, for them, speaks of integrity.

So from a church that sadly passes on,
Where orthodox and moral thoughts in some places are sadly gone.
We hope you enjoy your trip to Rome,
And after you've had your swim,
Whilst celebrating, no doubt, with a well earned gin,
I trust and pray you'll find you're home . .
Let's hope it doesn't turn out to be gin and Lemming!



* Sorry, couldn't seem to find the right rhyming word!


Pax

ps A sad day on many levels and for many reasons

Thursday, 13 January 2011

So What is core morality?

An email regarding yesterday's posts (seems many find the response system a bit flawed and clumsy) asked whether we could really consider there to be a 'core morality', even for Christians. I think there is and it would appear that if we look at the various offerings regarding human rights and the expectations contained within them, so do others.

The problem of morality is that because one of the parameters which shapes a public morality is the culture itself. This means that what might have been disapproved of, or left unspoken at another time, can suddenly become public and obvious. It appears that there is a Rake's progress which sees what is good in society eroded and that which was abhorred taken up and even approved of. This might be expected in a purely social setting but one would hope that within a religious setting this might not be the case, after all, constancy of belief and rule was one of the big selling points when discussing conversion to Islam. It appears that the Christian faith might be less constant and secure in its tenets than some of the other faiths in the market!

One of my clergy colleagues pointed out that morality means many things to many people, a very true statement. The problem with morality now is that I am seeing it shaped locally by a form of 'natural justice' whereby stealing, retribution and revenge (to name but a few features) are now considered to be fair game. If someone is considered to be a 'not nice' person, then whatever they get is merely what they deserve and all is well.

My core morality begins with the ten commandments - after all, keeping them is the start of a secure and consistent lifestyle (isn't it?). Now I know some may have problems with the One God bit but the rules about possessions that possess and using God's name as a swear word (in fact using any swear word can sit here) would make life a lot more comfortable, pleasant and free from all that credit stress too!

Looking after oneself should be a factor and therefore I will leave the Sabbath bit in (you can just call it a day off!).

Then we come to some of the big issues: Don't murder! Simple and good advice for everyone, we all live longer that way! Stick to your own partner, be faithful and work at the relationship (and the kids that come from it) and society (which is already living longer) is healthy and balanced.

Not stealing and not lying would see us with a society where you really could leave you front door unlocked at night (that's a myth by the way, there was more murder in the thirties and forties that there is today!) and if people didn't tell lies, about others or themselves, we'd see no need to murder, no way unfaithfulness could be nurtured as a continuing thing (there would still be blips I'm sure) and relationships would be much better (for not lying would not be like the sadly flawed film 'Invention of Lying').

There are core moral issues and we as Christians need to embrace them and demonstrate them to the flawed and fallen world in which we find ourselves.

Pax

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Morality - What is it?

Yesterday's post suggested that the event which started the journey to Strasbourg, "Spoke volumes about the man and his morality." This brought about the question, "Did it? Only if you believe that there is a definitive statement as to what morality actually is. The word carries with it a multitude of meanings and interpretations, even for Christians." Indeed there are 'a multitude of meanings and interpretations, even for Christians', some Christians more than others!

The reality is that the acts which set the ball rolling in March 2008 did indeed 'speak volumes' about the man just as do our comments, acts or attitudes speak volumes about our beliefs, values and standards. But putting the obvious aside, let's look at the deeper issue, that of morality.

What is Morality?
As I understand, and teach it, morality is the means whereby our actions are assessed as either right or wrong. This is not a simple thing though, for 'morality' is influenced, shaped and managed by a number of things religious and philosophical. It is shaped by, and shapes the, societal values and often becomes codified and regulates society, seeking to maintains good and positive traits within that society.

That we conform to these rules and act within their parameters is considered to be essential for the well-being of the culture in which we live (because we speak of acting 'ethically' there is a need to also determine what 'ethics' is, for they are not interchangeable, but not today).

I get the feeling this might become a bit of a thread, so let's deal with the immediate and leave that before us exactly there.

Are there definitive statements to what morality is? Is morality merely something imposed as a normative enforcement or is it more in that there is perhaps an ambiguous morality too? Can there be universal moralities? Loads of lovely questions . . now what about some answers!

I see morality as being the principles of right behaviour as defined by societal, cultural, religious, familial and other considerations (education perhaps?). Morality does appear to have some universal tenets in that it seems most societies abhor some common acts and attitudes, for instance:

Murder - Stealing - Lying - Adultery - Inflicting pain - Acts of aggression - Genocide - Slavery and more besides (I have left for others to fill in the blanks and bring their own viewpoints to the party).

But, for the first stage of this, hopefully, developing discussion I think it is obvious that the acts which started this process obviously spoke volumes for it revealed what had been hidden in a forty-odd year marriage, bringing to light payment for sexual gratification and favours, adultery and other aspects which have been considered wrong by those who call themselves Christian and those who do not.

A quick for instance, I asked fifty soldier about the man's actions and not one voice endorsed them as moral, right or acceptable - obviously a consistent moral view! I found the same when I asked Christians so I guess this leaves any others living in a place where neither Christian or secular group condones the acts and actions!

Hope this helps.

Pax

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Free to act without comment?

Max Moseley, former head of Formula One, is to visit Strasbourg's European Court of Human Rights today in a bid to change the way the excesses of celebrities is reported. Moseley is making a case for what is called, 'prior notification', a process whereby the press tells any celeb' (or public figure) that there is a story about them in the offing.

The reality is that, as I understand it, this is already done by the reputable newspapers (that limits it I guess!) and what this really is about is that it give those engaged in what might be considered 'newsworthy' articles the opportunity to have injunctions slapped on them so that their dirty deeds never come to light.

Now when there is some form of entrapment involved this might be considered to be in the public interest, but as I recall with the Moseley story he surely finds himself in handcuffs (again?) over this one! It was obvious that he was not set-up regarding his sadomasochistic get together and although it could be considered to be part of private life, it also spoke volumes regarding the man and his morality. Those who wish to live in the spotlight need to realise that it will illuminate the good and the bad, so better be good I guess!

The biggest loser surrounding this move would be serious reporting and things which are in the public interest. Some of the trashy celeb magazines (are their any others?) would find their 'exclusives' and the photojournalistic revelations (goodbye nip shots?) greatly reduced - they'd have to make it up instead (What! They already do?).

So Moseley goes to Strasbourg and pleads his case. It will take some months before we hear the result and so Max will find himself hanging around!

Seems some things just don't change!

Pax

Monday, 10 January 2011

Harvard teaches - Hollywood Educates!

Teaching and educating are not synonymous and therefore not interchangeable (much like the gender/sex issue)! Teaching, especially these days, is becoming less and less of what it was (as the move towards concepts and away from first principles and actually understanding and manipulating numbers, words or facts demonstrates) when I was studying back in the dark ages.

Education brings the recipient to a place where they possess knowledge, skills and the ability to live with the stuff that is taught. It fosters the ability to assess, understand, manipulate and exist (whilst continuing to grow).
We can stand in front of whiteboards, chalkboards (apparently we mustn't call them blackboards in case it offends boards of differing colours) and TV screens spouting stuff until we're some hue in the face (avoidance of naming the colour spares us from hueist comments I guess) but what really touches those in our society is the experiencing something, even when that experiential exercise is merely film!

I have been discussing attitudes with people for a while now and find that the majority of the attitudes held, regardless of age, social status or national/ethinc origin owe much to the influence of film (TV and Web-based media too).

This can work for good and can also be damaging or corrupting at personal, familial and societal levels.

So there's a thought . . .what do we watch, read or otherwise engage with?

How much damage does watching certain things do to us, our values, witness and mental/emotional/spiritual well-being?

Be careful little eyes what you see - you might just get educated!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Baptism of Christ. More than a wet witness?

It's Epiphany and Christ has been made manifest to the world. He's been revealed to the Jewish chappies out in the fields and we have celebrated his revelation to three wise geezers what have arrived from afar with their oh so telling gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now the liturgical calendar moves on to His baptism.

In the lite version of Matthew 3:13-17 as found in the NLT, we find:

"Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened* and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

In the baptism story we find an unusually consistent account between the four Gospels (usually we have an eye-witnesses perspective which results in slightly different views of the same thing).

Now we know that John the Baptist has recognised jesus, he would do though wouldn't he, after all he's family! But he recognises jesus as more than family, i's the same recognition that John had when he 'jumped for joy' in the womb of Elizabeth his mother (Luke 1:44). It's the recognition that the salvation of the world has come into the world, it's the recognition that He's about to begin his salvific mission. The touch-paper was lit when the prophecy was fulfilled in bethlehem . . at last the fireworks are about to be seen!

Jesus has no sin, that's part of the role and all of who He is! Yet here Jesus is, coming to John to be baptised and John recognises that in fact it is he, a man and therefore sinful, who needs to be washed clean by the God incarnate before him!

And yet Jesus tells John that this is the way it has to be, for this is what the Father wants. Here's a first lesson for us in that no matter how we view ourselves or our theology, status or whatever, if Jesus obeys the Father, even when it appears (to our little minds) that there's a better plan, then perhaps this is a model for us too?

And so the Son goes out and does as the Father commands and the heavens open and the Holy Spirit appears - a theophany (literally, an appearance of God) - and the Father commends and launches His new revised model of humanity to the world, Jesus!

We are baptised because Jesus was baptised. This is our signing the paperwork that says we will be obedient to the command of God the Father. We do so in association with Jesus, the Son and have the transaction blessed, affirmed and continuously from that day forward enabled.

In the baptism of Jesus the salvation of the world is made public - more than three foreign chaps, a few shepherds and the innkeepr (I assume he looked outside to see what the attraction was!) - in our baptism we look for the same in us. A proclamation, a beginning and the start of a journey with, for, and through (by the enabling of His Holy Spirit) God!

Alleluia!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The ultimate reredos?

video

I just love this - what an excellent piece of animation.

Jesus leads - the faithful back Him up!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Too much conversion conversation?

Yesterday I was talking to someone who asked about the mass conversions that were taking place. Foolishly I assumed it was a comment about the swimming of the Tiber but no it was about former PM Tony Blair's sister-in-law, Lauren Booth. "Who?" I asked naively and carried on with the original topic (after all, she's not on my Christmas card list!).

They weren't going to be shaken off that easily though. Like a BNP advert they started speaking of this becoming a Muslim country and sharia law, hijabs and all that stuff. They obviously weren't going to be diverted from discussing their fears and concerns, which I assume means they read the fascist! Here's, essentially, what I told them:

Let's be a bit rational about this topic. My reality tells me that the majority of the female converts I have met are married to men who are Muslims and this has to, therefore, play a big part in the process!

Also, whilst there might be some converts in places (like Birmingham) it seems that there still aren't that many of them, nowhere near the hundred thousand some speak of anyway, but that wouldn't make it newsworthy would it (and it's always good to publish and have people take notice of your results)? After all, look at Masters and Johnston, Kinsey and some of the other stuff that has caused a stir but perhaps been subjective or possessing another flaw (note, I'm not saying the research is flawed, I haven't read it - only experienced the knee-jerk response).

The fears of a nation which is in the thrall of Islamic sharia law and 'expelling the Queen from Buckingham Palace' is pure fantasy. The droves of people rushing from the CofE to Islam is a load of tosh for it is obvious that the majority of those who make the journey don't have a clue about Christianity and if they wear the badge 'CofE' it only through the nominal folk-faith that sees them 'christened'!

In short, what this indicates is positive in that it shows that people are hungry for spiritual meaning and purpose in their lives, that they seek something that is constant and upholds the traditional values of morality and decency and if this is the case, we have something that will meet their needs more than adequately.

So let's put out our stall and let's stop worrying about other religions. Anything looks good until it's put up against the real McCoy (ever been to a pound shop?).