Friday, 31 December 2010

2011 - A Year in Prospect

I have been asked by quite a number of people about 2011and what I'm expecting (good and bad) to happen in it. Having given it some thought, here's my list:

Things I hope to see:
1. More people come to faith in Christ
The greatest joy in being a dog-collar is that of leading people to faith in, and through, Christ.

2. The second series of Rev.
The first series was an excellent, close to home and extremely provocative (and funny) offering and we look forward to more of it.

3. Me spending more quality time with the family.
I admit it, I am a workaholic and I aim to spend more time with the family and celebrate being a husband and father (and not have iphone or laptop with me when I'm having 'family time'!).

4. A coming together of all of the Anglican Leaders.
To sort out a way forward. I'd prefer to see 'Anglican' and 'Episcopalian' as brands for the orthodox and liberal groups respectively, have both in communion where that is possible and each contain the areas of disagreement where it is not. That way people could make their choice and there would be room for some coalescence too!

Things I sadly expect to see:
1. The debate about homosexuality become more hardened and more spiteful.
And this is from both sides. I can't see that the way people live their lives (hetero or homosexual) can be detached from living the Christian life and though dialogue appears to lead nowhere (or if it does, it is slow) - it is better than non-Christian words and actions.

2. The 'Big Society' will big more like the 'Big Con'.
I fear that those in power are going to be looking to the very same people (the Church) that they have marginalised to do the stuff for free!

3. More clergy affected by 'stress'.
It seems to me that the role of a dog-collar has changed greatly over the past twenty-five years such that the pressures that teams (which apparently don't work), multi-benefice parishes (which also apparently don't work) and 'parish share'bring are causing some to struggle and fail.
We need to be thinking about parochial structures, collegial ministry (by agreement rather than contract) and pointyheads who pastor the pastors.

4. More extreme views from Orthodox and Liberal alike.
Foolish people like Terry Jones (Burn a Koran Day) and Fred Phelps (Let's act disgracefully and call it Christian) and all those other people who issue foolish statements and untruths to support their view points will undoubtedly be a part of 2011. Alongside them will be the people who portray things as they are not to support their viewpoints and cover their lack of Biblical warrant (and sadly some of these will be ordained too!) And then there's always certain politicians who clamour to publicise and support stupidity too! Don't see this changing at all (sadly).

Things I don't expect to see:
1. Rowan being forced to resign because of pressures from either side.
Love him or hate him (and I do both at times) - He's basically a good bloke and I don't see anyone else doing an better job (and isn't he supposed to be put there by God?)

2. The numbers of those swimming the Tiber being anywhere as large as some have predicted.
I expect this to be one of the damp squibs of 2011 and think FiF and high church will still pretty much be with us.

3. GAFCON becoming the force it first appeared to be.
I think the timing of their press release regarding the Anglican Covenant and some of the other antics will result in them become more of a Gaffed Con than a coherent way forward (which is a sad, but apparently true, assessment).

4. The break-up of the Anglican Communion.
There will be problems and some, quite rightly, will find themselves moved into the second division whilst others, equally rightly, will find themselves invited to sit around the table. But I don't think we will see the bloodshed and fragmentation that some predict (or could it be, hope for?).

Things I hope not to see:
1. Feeble-minded and wicked people who make mischief.
These are the people who seek to put forward their views by engaging in mocking others, issuing awful statements about others and generally acting as non-believers. they might entertain those of a similar mindset but they do themselves and the Gospel no good at all!

2. Clergy caught up in acts which bring the Church into disrepute.
I hope we see less of the abuse of power from clergy, of all denominations and start to see the end of the paedophile priests row through some open and transparent dealings from all (even those who have these skeletons in their cupboards).

3. Tottenham finishing above the Arsenal.
Much as I like Harry - as a Gooner this has to be my hope.

So there it is - my hopes, fears and expectations.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Lacking Reality - The X Factor

Am I the only person who wasn't glued to the television over X-Factor before Christmas?

Wherever I went, even in funeral visits, the people were talking about it and who would win, assured that by doing so they would also take the prized 'Christmas Number One' record slot. It was the main focus of just about everyone's conversation and therefore I assume viewing.

I don't watch X-Factor, Britain's (Not) Got Talent, Big Brother or any of the myriad amounts of tosh that appears on the moronoscope (aka TV). I am not interested in celebrities being trained to dance (I've seen them do that with bears and monkeys in various places I've been to and so there's nothing new in teaching simple creatures to move about!) and have no interest in more of these publicity-seeking types eating worms in the bush or wannabees being critiqued by haven'tbeens!

What matters to me is that it appears that we are developing an X-Factor styled Christianity whereby rather than serve your time and learn your craft, as musicians used to in the good old days, we now want this rapid rise into fame and success. It doesn't happen like that in the entertainment world. If you don't believe me, take a look at the various winners who have risen, fallen and now vanished.

There are many entertainers out there who have learned their craft and have preformed in smaller venues, moving on as skills and reputation grow. Each rises to a certain level and whilst some might never be 'number one', they make a good living out of being and doing what they enjoy.

As we come to the end of the year I have been looking back at the highs and lows. The areas where I wish I'd been better and the areas where I've managed to see some success (whatever that is). Where I have hoped things might come together (without having planned) I've found that they haven't been as successful as I'd have hoped for. Where I have put in the time and read, prayed and engaged with God and with people I have seen great personal and Church successes.

take a look back at your past year and ask yourself the same questions I am asking of myself at this time:

i. Have I worked at being who I should have been or merely tried to please those who I think might judge me?

ii. Have I worked at learning my craft. Have I read (Bible and other books) so that I might learn and extend my skills and awareness? Prayed and in praying, listened and sought to act upon what I have heard?

iii. Am I content to be where, and who, I am or am I seeking to be better and more effective (this doesn't mean promotion, self or otherwise) but it does mean perfecting who I am, how I minister and how much I look like Christ to those with whom I engage.

There's no fast track on the Christian journey, just a path that leads us to the foot of the Cross. Man's words will fade away and our names might be forgotten to all except God, and that's the real X-Factor, that He knows us and calls us by name - approved, loved and forgiven.


Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Colourfast Christians - An Explanation

Regarding 'Colourfast Christians - For me the T-Shirt is about living out my Christian faith in a way that is obvious and effective. If I have to tell people I'm wearing it, or have to make a fuss to get the fact noticed, then I'm doing it all wrong.

The 'T-Shirt' is something I think we can, and should, all be wearing as Christians as a piece of basic clothing.

Regarding the song and dance aspect of wearing the garment, my initial zeal became tempered by 'being balanced' and then I let it become a habit rather than a fresh experience every day. It was good that I became more balanced but it is a sadness and a shame that I let my faith become more of a habit than a statement of faith (and faithful living). A slow move away from reading the Bible and praying for those around me and especially praying expectantly left me with an increasingly faded witness. This eventually became the T-Shirt which proclaimed that I was a Christian to me, but said nothing at all to those who saw me.

I'd like to think that wearing the T-Shirt is all about prayer and reading our Bible and because of what we read and how we pray changes the way that we live because of it, people will see the difference in us without us ever having to tell people directly.

The words of St Francis about preaching the Gospel, using words if we really need to, spring to mind here. The T-Shirt says it all and is all.

I hope this helps develop this a bit further (and that my weird brain doesn't get in the way too much!).


Proximity - A Dangerous Thing

One of the biggest threats to stability in a relationship is that of proximity to others outside of that relationship.

In a marriage setting it has been my experience that the 'other' person in a split is not often that good looking, isn't really anything special, isn't (or wasn't) even in the market for a relationship, but is the 'other person' merely because they happened to be there!

The reason so many people end up in relationships with others from their immediate workplace is usually down to the fact that they work together. This means that they share the struggles and the day-to-day pressures and triumphs and it is easy, especially in close-knot teams, for the relationships in the workplace to be closer and more intense than with those at home.

The late Wynne Lewis, former senior Pastor of Kensington temple and General Superintendent of Elim once counselled me with some wise words following a sexual indiscretion from one of the Elim pastors. He said, "Victor (boyo) they don't need to be pretty, they don't need to be available, they just need to be there - keep your distance from them!"

There is much to be said for the good old standard of the 'Appearance of Evil' approach to things in that if it looks wrong it probably is and if it isn't, it will have the potential to be - so don't do it!

I know clergy who flirt and have the reputation of being a bit injudicious regarding the places eyes (and hands) go. It might be innocent, but the best way to ensure this is the case is not to fuel the rumour mill in the first place.

I know clergy who think nothing of counselling women in a house on their own and being seen with people in places that might appear to be inappropriate. When challenged, the response is usually, "That's just how I am, there's nothing in it!' Perhaps not, but the way things appear is potentially dangerous to the good working of the Church and the reputation and ministry of clergy!

This is not giving in to gossips, as one dog-collar told me, but exercising a bit of wisdom and serving the Church, its member and Christ well. It is not kowtowing it is being wise!

Time and again I am faced with situations where people have crossed lines because the opportunity was there at the wrong time. Time and time again I find people telling me how it wasn't intended and how circumstance and situation led to the happening (which could be true once, but when it is repeated the excuses fall hollow to the ground).

I was in a place where some of those present referred to the 'Reverend Grope', a name that caused me to smile as it reminded me of my younger days and the 'Molesworth' books. The smile waned when I realised that this was no unfortunate surname but a, well-deserved it seems, nickname.

For those who ordained please remember the calling to which we aspire.

For those seeking ordination - learn the right things now and make a habit of them before you get collared.

For those who have no intention of ever being ordained (and to the above groups too - for we are all 'laity', God's people) - tough! We're ALL called to be part of the Bride of Christ and as such are called to minister to God and His people, to be models of what Christian living should be and to exercise fidelity and good judgement in all that we do.

So keep your distance and draw closer to God!


ps. I hope this answers the questions and sets the right direction from this point forward.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Happy Families Gamble

If anyone was in any doubt about the place of gambling in making for a happy family, I can only assume that an advert' I saw on the television tonight (for Ladbroke's 'Kick Off' iphone application) will be most useful in clearing up any confusion. The advert showed what looked like a happy couple moving up a gear and becoming ecstatic at the prospect of using their iphone (four) to put a bet on. The male member of the couple was selecting the game whilst the female nodded her agreement and applauded the choice!

Considering that as many as one in ten of the population are reported to have problems because of their gambling in the hope that their winning will assist their financing themselves out of the recession (source: Credit Action) and considering the reality that something like £50bn is spent on various forms of gambling in the UK, the advert is, in my view, outrageously misleading and dangerous as well.

Statistics tell of four properties an hour (every hour) being repossessed and fifteen people an hour (every hour) being declared insolvent (or bankrupt)and this problem needs to be addressed. This leads me to a place where I have to say, whether I sound like a killjoy or not, that such advertising is irresponsible as it only increases the problem rather than diminishes it.

Where I serve we have a number of families who have unmanageable debt and homes where gambling is a problem and facilities such as that advertised sure aren't going to help the situation any!

We need to be assisting those around us to break free of their problem areas and therefore as a step in that direction, I will be voicing my dissent with the relevant authorities tomorrow (the ASA).

To contact them regarding anything you consider to breache the 'legal, decent, honest and truthful' criteria or for something that 'causes offence', click on the link below.

We're not killjoys and I abhor the 'nanny state' mentality but we do have a duty to protect some people from themselves - this, as I see it is one of those times.

Advertising Standards


Monday, 27 December 2010

As a new year beckons . .

I'm off to do a funeral visit shortly and it got me thinking, as I sorted the paperwork for the week ahead and the five funerals it holds, just how tough it is to lose a loved one on the run-in to christmas and during what would otherwise be a festive time.

During the first service on Christmas morning I noticed the 'collection' van of one of the local undertakers and spent a moment thinking about a family somewhere in our patch and their not so pleasant Christmas morning.

Taking communion to those who couldn't make church on Christmas Day took me to meet people who were faring less well that we might have hoped. Depression, Problems that come from an ever increasing age and the dreadfulness of Cancer and other illnesses all stood out in stark contrast to the joyful scenes elsewhere.

The news that a young woman who had been reported missing from her Bristol home had been found dead. The thoughts for those whose daughter, barely a teenager, would be keeping her last Christmas and for those whose loved one were facing danger on operational tours across the globe, seeking to bring peace to places where peace was obviously not to be found.

Everywhere there are people who will be looking to 2011 with pain and the sadness of personal loss. There is an answer to every question, even when there is perhaps no easy answer. There is comfort for those who mourn, even when at this time it appears to be far off and be presented as merely hollow and trite commiserations.

There is a time coming when jesus, the Christ, the Babe of bethlehem will return and will establish His Kingdom:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling placea of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me,
“It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”

But until then we, the Church, are the answers to the questions.

We are the balm to the pain and the comfort of the afflicted through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit and by the blood of the Lamb.

Looks like a busy year ahead.

Colourfast Christians

Many years ago, when the earth was young, I decided that I'd give the Christian thing 'a go'!

I'd been listening to a man by the name of Gordon Bailey as he spoke about Christianity, the Cross, new life and all that stuff and, intellectually not emotionally, thought that some of what he said made some sort of sense. I heard stuff that warranted an examination and a bit of a try at it and so I started going along to a little Baptist church in a nice, comfortable, Thames-side town to find out what this Christian stuff was all about and how it affected me, for better or worse, and what difference it might make to my thinking, actions and life in general.

Soon I had become quite enthusiastic and I wore the brightly coloured T-Shirt that loudly proclaimed 'I'm a Christian'.

Everyone noticed what I wore and they watched to see what difference it made to me and what difference I made to the world around me.

Time moved on and I continued to wear my T-Shirt, after all, it was who I was!

I wanted everyone to see that I was a Christian and the T-Shirt made that statement for me, even when perhaps my lifestyle didn't! There it was, telling people about who I was and what I believed. It was more than just a fashion statements, wasn't it?

I carried on going to church and telling people who asked what I believed. O.K. I perhaps wasn't as zealous, but then again, once the excitement dies down, we're not, are we? And I still had my T-Shirt! People could see I was a Christian, couldn't they?

I was a Christian, after all I went to church (quite often) and I read my Bible (now and then) and would tell people that being a Christian was important (and being at church wasn't the be all and end all) it's what we believe, right?

And I was till wearing the T-Shirt, so I still had to be a Christian!

And then one day, in passing, I stopped and looked in a shop window and felt proud that I'd worn my T-Shirt for all those years (see dad, it wasn't a passing fad!). I was a Christian and everyone could see that because . . .

It was then I saw that the thing had faded and the words were but a faint outline on the T-Shirt and stopped and realised that perhaps this was true of the image of Christ that people saw in me too. What I needed was to get a new T-Shirt and wear it every day so there was no doubt about who I was and who Christ was in my life. O.K., we hadn't spoken for a while and it was true we didn't talk often (but I am so busy) and reading took time that just wasn't there (I had so many other important things to be doing) but . . . but perhaps there was something wrong in our relationship. We were together, but more on His side than mine.

Then it struck me that I had a lifetime supply of T-Shirts, all I had to do was take one 'new every morning' and now I wear a new one every day. It sometimes porclaims what I don't feel and it often puts me in a better light than I deserve, but isn't that what the Cross does anyway?

So now I read about God and His dealings with man, I talk to God about what's going on in the lives of people I know, the world and me in particular and suddenly I feel like I'm wearing the T-Shirt again for the very first time.

"For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have been clothed with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave7 nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

So let us all be clothed afresh in Christ every day, after all it is new every morning - we stand for Christ and as Christ for those we meet - can people read the truth? Are you colourfast or merely a faded Christian?


Sunday, 26 December 2010

An Ashes Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
And cheer the Aussies As they go!
And as we come into his house
Praise God and cheer for Cook And Strauss!

What a super start to the morning.

A very Merry Christmas to all who read this and I pray that you, and yours, will have a super , and most blessed, 2011!


And in case it is needed - A peaceful and happy new year to you all


Saturday, 25 December 2010

A Quiet night and a peaceful day

Well, the night may have been quiet but the day is going to be amazing as we celebrate my best friend's birthday (He also happens to be the Lord of everything which means I have friends in extremely high places)!

First of the two services about to happen shortly and then I'm off to take communion to people who can't make it to church whilst others transform the place into a venue for us to have around forty people for Christmas lunch.

If it weren't for my co-workers, the wardens, Lay ministers, various volunteers, our children and (most importantly) my wife, being Church would be something we're not. So here's a message to all the members of St Francis' Church, my wife and children and God:

Merry Christmas everyone

Happy Birthday Jesus

Thinks this says it all!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Why Change the Lyrics?

I have to admit that I'm getting so incredibly ticked off by the endless stream of prunes out there who see fit to change the words of songs, hymns and carols.

We have 'warlike' words replaced by 'comfortable' words and we have the traditional hymns changed to be unisex (what a load of tosh that is) or to remove the chance of offending someone or other for some reason or another, but to be honest I find the changes to be generally irrelevant and wrong.

Having just found a version where 'the baby awakes' has become 'the poor baby awakes' - the 'bright sky' has become merely 'sky' and so many other changes between the version now exist that it's a wonder anyone sings it right anymore. I found eighteen different versions (made a distraction whilst I drank tea) of 'Away in a manger' and when I did a cursory scan of many of the hymns that I've known for many years, was equally appalled with some of the many ways people have weakened them by their politically correct, gender-bender, meddling!

A few 'for instances':

From 'For All the Saints' we have a change from:
"O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold, fight as the saints who nobly fought of old, and win with them the victor's crown of gold'

Which turns into

'Still may your people, faithful, true and bold, live as the saints who nobly fought of old, and share with them a glorious crown of gold.'

I was in a church recently where I was told, "We don't sing that song here!" The song? 'Onward Christian Soldiers!"

The world has gone totally bonkers :)

How I love the media

I was blessed and (just a little) surprised that the Christmas letter from the Mayor of Tamworth, Lee Bates, in the Christmas edition of the Tamworth Herald was such a positive piece with regard to Christmas and the reason for the season, Jesus. Not because of who Lee is, for he's been a superb Mayor and has brought great credit to the role, but because he ignored a secular approach for an honest one (well done on all counts Mr. Mayor).

I was impressed when today, on Radio Four, Polly Toynbee, speaking as head humanist pointed out that 'only' about twelve and a half percent of the UK's population was Christian. She also pointed out that they (Christians) are developing a culture that screams 'Christianophobia'. I have to say that considering the reality that the U.K.'s homosexual camp, coming in at less than a quarter of the size of the Christians, do it so effectively and have such influence because of it that it would be perhaps churlish to blame the Christians?

But, blame them I do because it's not the truth (for either group) and wish that heterosexuals, homosexuals, people of faith and people of no faith would just grow up a little and stop trying to cry foul everything something goes against them. Dialogue, stand for your rights but stop bleating when others don't agree - and most of all, stop taking everything to court. After all, those in the judicial system appear weak and cowardly and bend over backwards to accomodate the 'vox pop' rather than stand for what is, and has been, right.

I have chosen to be a Christian and whilst I'm overjoyed att he thought of others validating my choice and joining alongside me and enjoining a relationship with the Living God, I'm also happy for them to believe in nothing and to expect nothing when life ends - I get the feeling they won't be disappointed!

This is CHRISTmas and try as some might, the reason for the season is most definitely Jesus - ask Tamworth's Mayor.

Laugh as you might at some of the Dorky secularists who attack faith in general and Christianity in particular but still claim to celebrate Christmas - but also cheer as it just confirms the fact that they're rather muddled and irrational (although just reading their books or listening to their rants also confirms this).

Celebrate, as you must, for God's salvation is at hand - God is with us (Immanuel).

This might make you smile too (wonder what's in the box?) - appears it wasn't the last supper at all, merely a birthday bash!

castigat ridendo mores

Rescue Plan Confirmed!

Some three thousand years ago, a foreign king held a nation captive. The people of this nation cried out to their God for help and for rescue from their plight and in response came prophecies. These prophecies told of a person who would come and how, by his coming, the people would know the rescue was underway. There would be a sign and that would confirm that the rescue had begun.

So, what was the sign? What words or action would clearly show that the rescue was underway?

The words told of a King coming from a tiny, insignificant place and being born in such a unique way that there would be not doubt that this was the sign that the rescue mission had begun. The name of the place was Bethlehem; the unique sign was that this ruler would be born of a virgin.

If someone came from Bethlehem, we might say it is was a coincidence. If they had the right name then we might perhaps think it might be him. However, if they also came into the world in what is, after all, a unique way, a virgin birth, this must surely confirm that we definitely had the right person.

Well, there are many more prophecies that tell us that Jesus is the man the prophets spoke of and the odds against someone fulfilling them all is apparently pretty large (actually it is 1:10,000,000,000,000,000 - fancy having put a pound on at those odds!) and yet fulfil them He does!

As we, this evening, celebrate the birth of Jesus in a tiny, insignificant place; born of a Virgin, we can also celebrate that in His coming we have the evidence that the saving of this world. God has indeed begun His salvation of this world of ours. As the prophet Isaiah puts it:

For a child has been born—for us!

The gift of a son - for us!

He will take over the running of the world and He will be called:
Wonderful Counsellor, Great God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 14

A bit of a shocker this one:

Although I suppose it could be considered to be the ultimate in 'energy conservation' I suppose, and it does stop people singing silly songs about Christmas Trees!

Also makes an interesting starter for a discussion about capital punishment (regardless of the season) too!

Slow uphill  journey for the remainder of the cards (thankfully).

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 13

I like this one, for it gives an eschatological feel to Christmas and it mirrors the end times and the coming judgement admirably.

Well, have you?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Americans have lost their own plot!

As I understand history, America was not founded to be an atheist nation but a nation where faith was an assumed and important part of personal and national identity. That said, by cleverly appealing to the constitution, America is now, apparently, a nation which flinches at nativity scenes in public places (unless they are accompanied by icons and images from other faiths, whether or not they celebrate Christmas).

America is a nation where it is NOT against the law to pray in schools but the fear of offending secularists, the fear of being labelled as extremist and the secularists, thanks to cowards in legal and education sectors, have removed the 'mandated' prayer (what we used to call 'assemblies' in the UK) from schools - but then again, pretty much so have the UK schools too!

In America, nativity scenes will cause secularists to take people to court for breaching the first amendment! They can impose their (lack of) belief on others in a way that merely celebrating something cannot? This is not even-handed, it's oppression and that's something that is wrong and needs to be addressed - the right way!

I assume that those secularists who oppose Christmas as a Christian festival will be seen at work next week, refusing to take the time off, as an indication of their integrity regarding this issue. Of course they won't, they want everything their way and are all about them and what they can have.

I also assume that if one has a right to believe in something, then another person has the right to not believe in that same something. If one person can stand and proclaim (loudly) about the errors of believing or acting in a certain way, there is also the right to state to opposite position - equally as loud and without restriction. This is the basis on which democracy works (and is Christian too!).

I believe that people have the right to engage in whatever addictions they choose to engage in just as much as it's O.K. for people to reain from such behaviour. That the former will ruin their life, and the lives of those around them, and will probably be living a life-shortening lifestyle is not something I want, but choice is their right. I have the right of course to oppose such lifestyles (because they're wrong according to logic, justice and, oh yeah, the Bible says so!).

If people wish to choose whatever sexual lifestyle they engage in then that's their choice (it still seems there's nothing in science to dispute it's not a choice by the way) but if I don't choose to make the same choices, that is my right. If people wish to promote their sexuality, then again they can, but others can promote an opposite view and it isn't 'phobia', it's merely an opposing view!

We need to start taking and making a stand for the things that we believe. I choose to make mine using the Bible as my yardstick, for by it I measure everything, and this is my right!

So a very merry Christmas - as we celebrate the coming together of God and man in the shape of Jesus, the Christ, which I do so because I have been born in a nation for whom Christian faith and nation were once one, because I met with Him and recognised the gist that is Jesus in my life and because having freedom to have my own views is a Christian gift (although some of the denominations have certainly abused their power and have, historically, removed that gift at times)which I choose to both exercise and retain - and in 2011 I encourage all to open and use it.

We still have a bit more of a grasp on things than our American cousins, so let's act before we too lose the plot?


Sunday, 19 December 2010

advent 4 - Lady's Day in the CofE

Well, One Lady's Day as we come to the fourth Sunday of Advent and, having had  'Gaudete' or 'Rose Sunday'  (and Steeleye Span's 'Gaudete', which means 'rejoice' by the way.) last week we've reached the end of the trail that leads to Bethlehem and come to a day where it's all about Mary!

For those who wonder what the candles mean:

Week One - Patriarchs (Gen 12 - 50, the founding fathers of the Jewish faith)
Week Two - The Prophets (the people who spoke for God to the people, promises, warnings and salvation)
Week Three - John The Baptist (the man who went before jesus and heralded His coming)
Week Four - The Virgin (the obedient, humble and submissive heroine of the Christian faith

Some look at the four Sundays and see three millennia and then the answer, which is a nice way of looking at it. But I have two thoughts:

Thought the First.
When I became a Christian in a Baptist Church in Marlow, I was taught that 'we' (proper Christians) didn't do the Virgin Mary, she was the province of the Roman Catholics. As I continued, ending up in the Pentecostal church, this was re-iterated (and we sneered at the heresy that was Rome) - Mary was not for us, she was a 'Roman' icon!

Well, as an orthodox evangelical (with a dog-collar in the good old Church of England) can I say how wrong this was and encourage EVERYONE to embrace, applaud and honour (that doesn't mean worship) Mary as one of the heros of our faith. She's a star and someone we need to recognise as such (doesn't mean she was immaculately conceived, had no other children or was 'taken up to heaven rather than died') - she is a valid and important part of our faith as theotokos (god bearer) and as one of the early Christian figures!

Thought the Second
However you look at it, it seems odd to me that people talk of the season before us and of Santa and whether one has been 'Naughty or Nice' and yet these same people baulk at the thought of a judgement when Christ returns as Messiah at His second coming.

It's conditional theological thinking. Christ died for ALL, and therefore, because of His death, ALL are admitted to eternity with Him. All you have to do is take the ticket from His hands. If you don't recognise Him, then you're free not to take that ticket, but you're not free to complain that you didn't gain entry! God doesn't exclude anyone, it's there for ALL but He doesn't force it on us and, we need to decide that we want to receive it.

The ticket is but a hands reach away, all you need to do is acknowledge that Christ died for you on the Cross and the ticket is yours. It's a free gift, but even though He holds it before us, it is us who the responsibility of taking it it.

What a great Christmas gift - I pray you and yours each find it for yourself and take it from His nail pierced hands this Christmas.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Why Blog?

I was asked what my blog is about and why do I do it?

Well, I blog for a number of reasons and all of them are pretty selfish!

The first reason is that it gives me a place to use as a scratchpad for my life As things come along I will dialogue on (electronic) paper with the things that excite, frustrate or make my laugh! I will find myself splurging onto the screen an issue or happening that has been part of my reality and mull it over. It's a place for me, but I realise that some people also find it useful/helpful/interesting/annoying (delete as applicable) and so it's in the public domain.

The next reason is that it enables me to create some material that those with whom I am dialoguing elsewhere might find useful. This is the reason I will do stuff on Church growth and Mission Action Plans (because I'm a missioner) or perhaps on ministry and calling (because I'm a vocation's advisor) or on things that touch people in other areas too. Perhaps, as with the 'Christian Brands' theme, I have been asked to clarify what certain groups belief and help others determine whether or not they are 'Christian'.  But again, it is a response and it's all pretty much who I am and comes from what I'm doing.

Another reason for me doing the blogging is that I can do it quickly and I splurge whatever is before me and return to the thoughts that were running around my bonce before my day began to consider them.
The bottom line is that this blog is me. I don't try to show people how clever I am (because I'm obviously not). I don't try to push any particular political position and I don't try to proselytise or offend because of the theological beliefs I have.

I write as who I am and my beliefs are (I hope) obvious and my positions clear. I don't spend hours at the keyboard (I was saddened by someone who wrote on their blog that their life had become a search for stuff to blog on) or invent stuff in order to have an opinion on it. It not an issue that Ruth Gedhill or Andrew Brown don't comment on the blog or quote it (I don't pay to read her words but his but do enjoy his (free) articles) for it's not about being quoted - it's more about being! And being Christian!

So, for those who read the blog and enjoy it - a big Thank You.

For those who comment and take me to task - Thank You again, I like being engaged with and am always open to correction, it's how we grow!

For those who do quote me - best take out insurance!

For those who don't read this blog, well I can say what I like can't I (but I'm far too nice) - Thank You again, for at least you won't be infuriated by who I am and what I write!

And as for the person who asked yesterday - here's a swift five minute response in writing (as promised). I'm glad you find it challenging, frustrating, engaging and 'sometimes' immature - that's probably who I am and is exactly what this blog is:

"The thoughts and musings of a (below) average Church of England Priest!"


Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas - it's about Jesus . . .

Not Santa!

It seems that for many people now , Santa is the reason for the season, but of course if this is true then we will have to rewrite our 'catalogue' (the book formerly known as the Bible) so that we can celebrate 'Argostide' (the festival formerly known as 'Christmas') so that we can wish everyone 'Happy holidays' (the greeting formerly known as 'Merry Christmas).

Not only that but we're going to have to commission new art work for our new 'Springtime - a new creation for every occasion!' (the festival formerly known as 'Easter'.) so that it fits in with the true Argostide story. Here's one of the ideas that might just make 'Santa' work and it maintains that 'use your credit cards and spend to show just how much you love people,' feel for Argostide too!

Ho, Ho, Ho - Don't think he's the one who died for you.

Nah - Let's stick to the proper meaning of Christmas:

After all:

Dim Drivers!

This morning, on the school run, I decided to do a bit of a straw poll exercise regarding the number of people who removed the ice from their windows and had headlights on (it's rather dim outside this morning and the snow is trickling too!).

About forty-six percent of the cars that I saw this morning were being driven without any form of illumination, side or main (that's forty five out of ninety-six cars) and from the same group, more than half of the cars (fifty-two) hadn't cleared their windows or windscreens (front and rear).

The prize of the day goes to the (unlit) dim lady who, driving a chav' type personalised number-plated Land Rover with nothing more than a slit across her side of the screen - the rest of the car was covered in a mixture of snow and ice. It was a bit like looking at an Armoured Fighting Vehicle!!

Don't think it comes as a surprise to point out that we saw three minor shunts this morning!

On a brighter note, a friend was one of six cars stopped on their way to work yesterday. Having would down his window, the policeman asked if he'd had a drink that morning or the day before and when told 'No', let my friend carry on his journey. Bet he'd wouldn't have carried on, regardless of the answer, had he looked a little the worse for wear of the officer had smelt alcohol in the car!

Well done the local police - anything that stops drink driving and help to lower accident rates is always to be applauded.

A happy (and glorious) Friday to one and all as we (Anglicans) celebrate Eglantyne Jebb (founder of 'Save the Children' and a great example of Christian Socialism).

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Having come to the conclusion that the battle against drugs is one that cannot be won, Bob Ainsworth is suggesting that we might decriminalise drugs instead.

Many years ago, in a SciFi anthology, I read of a society which had no crime. As the story progressed it transpired that the planet had been a lawless and terrible place and its inhabitants were confronted by law breaking, but that had all gone. How dod they make crime disappear? Well, they merely looked at the crimes that were being committed and then removed them from the penal codes until there were none left! People committed whatever they liked, took whatever drugs they fancied, killed whosoever they pleased and eventually the lower echelons of the society had made themselves extinct, leaving an egalitarian and gentle society.

There is an argument that decriminalisation brings the issue under consideration out of the shadows and therefore out of the hands of the criminals such that it can be managed (and taxed?). Of course some (cynics) among us might say that the issue in question is merely being transferred to a different class of criminal!

The Swiss are discussing the decriminalisation of incest, the Romanians had a look at it last year. The reason? It's a moral issue and laws shouldn't control or restrict people's rights to act as they please. If the sexual relationships are by mutual consent, what's the harm?

Decriminalisation is an interesting issue as the majority of the acts that contravene legal codes are moral rather than legal! We make a law to stop something happening because those in authority deem that those acts are wrong. Often this is also a societal view as well and the law reflects the general opinion that something is wrong. The majority of these attitudes come from a moral code (usually the one that shapes or reflects the society) and so, in the Western world, this was the Bible and the ten commandments (not suggestions) as found in Exodus (in reverse order):

TEN: Keep your eyes of next door's stuff (especially his plasma TV, car and other half) - looking is the first step to nicking!

NINE: Don't tell lies about anyone - honesty is the best policy!

EIGHT: Don't nick nothing - hands off (literally if we're looking at sharia law ;))

SEVEN: Stick to sex with your own partner (and better still be married).

SIX: Don't commit murder (which is very different from killing by the way).

FIVE: Keep your family values and show a bit of respect for your parents (and therefore for society in general).

FOUR: Have a day off, you'll live longer - and while you're at it, you could spend a bit of time with God too!

THREE: Don't use God's name as a swear word - blasphemy is a crime against God and if He does exist (and I reckon He does) He'll want a few words with you about that one day!

TWO: Don't have possessions that control or possess you. You say you have no god but the 62" plasma and the 'must have' stuff seems to have that role. Stick to the real God and you'll be a lot better off!

ONE: Not a popular one this (as Dorkins rantingly demonstrates) - Stick to the true God, don't get sucked in by imitations!

The problem with decriminalisation is that with it all things might become permissible but not all things will be beneficial.

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 12

Here's a reality that many of us will recognise and it makes for a godd card too:

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

See, I am a prophet!

And being one really sucks!

Back in the last days of the previous century I wrote about society and the tacks that it was taking as part of a post-grad course in Applied Theology. In this piece I outlined the 'Rake's Progress' that our society was part of and I argued that the former taboos were now becoming accepted and that soon and very soon those things which had been frowned upon as we approached the 21st century would become acceptable and even commonplace within it.

I pointed to the attitudes towards living together (for it is not cohabitation as cohabitation was understood). Attitudinal change now complete, who cares whether one is married or not any more?

I remarked upon the change in attitude that saw illegitimate children as no longer being ill-considered. When was the last time you heard the term 'bastard' applied to a child born to a couple who weren't married? (Thank goodness for that one!!!)

I pointed out that the great taboo of homosexuality was becoming accepted and was no longer the great stigmatic elephant in the room that it had been in the fifties and sixties. Today we portray this minority act as if it were 50% (or more) of the population engaged in it and no one raises an eyebrow when the subject crops up.

I wrote of a day when cloning and fertilisation technology saw women parent (biologically) children and other abuses of science could make having a child a right rather than a genetic and sexual privilege. That's pretty much been nailed too!

I reasoned that sexual relationships between adults (familial and extra-familial) would become an area where acceptance, and even approval, would slowly evolve - eventually portraying it as a pure and high kind of affection.

Well it would seem that we're on the road to this one as the Swiss Upper House has a draft bill in its possession which would decriminalise sexual acts between consenting family members. So a Golgafrincham award to the Swiss, that notorious whore of Europe who prospered by both selling itself and funding all sides, in the World Wars, still has Nazi gold and other ill-gotten wealth in its bank's vaults and couldn't see something moral if it bit them on the butt!

No fun being a prophet, but then look at the Old testament - read Paul's letters and you'll see there's nothing new, we're just looking to learning stuff all over again. It seems humanity is destined to repeat much because of its desire for self-gratification and selfish pleasure - how very sad!!

Funerals - best bit of the job!

People give me a rather funny look when I tell them that one of the best things about being a dog-collar is the funerals. They look appalled and shocked in equal measure, after all (they say) funerals are such sad affairs.

Actually they're not, they are often the most rewarding and also quite funny in their own little ways. You see all of life at funerals and there's no greater reward than having someone come back and tell you that the service let them see the deceased person and their life in context for the first time.

Mind you there are some strange things that happen before, during and after the service which add a little spice and excitement to the everyday ministerial role.

Quite a few years back, in another place, I did the funeral of a very shrewd old person. They'd been widowed for many years and lived alone in a tidy little house with a well-kept garden and flowers in the window. Everything was just as it should be until the family came into the scene. There were a few children (we'll make the number three and call them A, B and C). A was a professional person who lived a fair distance away from home. The second child (B) had a job in a local shop, and the third (C) had never worked because of a variety of problems with health and habits.

A and B were there and were really helpful, gave me the information I needed to know and understand their dead parent and everything looked like it usually does when one of them mentioned C. Now there was a bit of conflict regarding C and the fact that during the deceased's widowed life C had been a regular visitor 'borrowing' the odd, small, amount of money to support them and their lifestyle. A and B didn't mind, after all it was who C was, but the parent (seeking to be fair) had unbeknown to any of the children kept account books listing whatever money had been 'lent' or given to the three of them. Upon the parent's death, the will stated that the totals sum of each books should be added together and that figure added to the balances of the various accounts held. This was duly done.

The next part of the will then decreed that the total amount should be divided by three and a third each, less what had been 'loaned' by each, should be given to each of the children.

When the arithmetic was done, A and B received a few thousand pounds each. Child C received a few hundred pounds! C had 'gone off on one' and left the family solicitors issuing viles curses, awful expletives and was threatening bloody revenge.

Come the day of the service, A and B were sat at the front during the service whilst C was sat a couple of rows back hemmed in by staff from the undertakers. The service was coming to its end when suddenly C appeared to fly from her seat and in best wrestling fashion, landed on B and 'posted' them on the woodwork in front of the seats. After the fuss had died down, the bloody nosed B given a handkerchief and the screaming and expletive ridden C removed, we continued to the climax of the service and the committal and cremation that followed.

A few days later I was at the crem' when one of the staff asked me to assist them. My service over I agreed and was led into the woods at the rear of the crem' where, sitting in a stream was child C, who was obviously not doing too well (the sound of wailing sort of gave that away) and it soon became clear that C had an empty ashes canister in their hand. We got C out and calmed down and put them into my car (stains never did come out) so I could take them home.

It transpired that C had gone into the crem' office and collected the ashes. Having done so they ran into the woods behind the crem' and emptied the ashes into the stream. So the parent wasn't to be scattered with their partner after all, they were on their was to the sea side (or the local fresh water bottling factory?) and because no one from the crem' had witnessed it - no record of their final resting place could be made in the book!

I had to tell A and B and though they were good about it, it was obviously not their first choice of resting place. As for C, I used to see them around the town every now and again, still looking mad and frightening and I assume if I were to go and look, probably still is to this day.

Who says we dog-collars have a boring life?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Santa - A Cautionary Note!

This started off as a bit of a laugh, but as I progressed I realised that as 'Bah, humbug' it might seem, there is something to think about with the Santa's Grotty scenario. So, read for yourself and see what you think:

It has come to my attention that people are actively encouraging children to engage in dangerous activities such as would normally not be allowed under many of the Child protection protocols in place across our nation in a number of ways:

I have seen young children being actively encouraged by parent, teachers (and even clergy) to take sweets and presents from an unknown stranger. This obviously breaks every rule regarding child safety.

Children are being encouraged to engage in contact with strangers. I have seen them not only encouraged, but actually placed on the lap of the stranger and even seen the children encouraged to give the man a kiss! Heavens above, whatever next?

Secrets. One of the children I saw last year had a chat with Santa and at the end of the conversation Santa told the child not to forget what he'd said and not to tell anyone, because that was their secret! How long have we been trying to teach children about 'secrets' in an attempt to make sure that nothing untoward ever went on?

Now I know I'm having a laugh at Santa's expense (I just hope this doesn't put me on the 'naughty' list) but there is actually a serious element to what I am saying in that these days we have to be careful about what we sow and what we appear to approve.

Taking the points in order:

It is good practice for any sweets to be passed to the child via the parent or carer who is with the child. This allows Santa to give sweets and/or a present but the child is actually receiving from a 'known' adult and the chain of trust is maintained. There is a danger of Santa, and people who come into schools and places where children are, setting the scene whereby children are put at risk. I don't want to make everything a fearful and risk-aware situation, but neither do I want to send mixed messages that could lead to a child being put into a place of danger or risk.

More and more the practice is that the child sits alongside Santa and the child is never alone with him or one of his helpers. many places now stop the child sitting on Santa's lap (and that's a blessing for he's a pretty fearsome sight when you're a toddler) altogether and this might not be such a bad thing.

We should never encourage children to get into the 'secrets' game with adults. Making it right in one situation effectively permissions a child, or makes them believe that keeping secrets is actually permissible. Encouragement from a trusted adult to do that with a stranger is, sadly, setting the scene for something less ho, ho, ho!

people doing the Santa role are generally these days in possession of an enhanced CRB check. We need to make sure that whenever we have a grotto that the situation never comes about where any child is alone with Santa, a helper or people that the child doesn't know. I know it sounds a bit OTT and the reality is that the majority of people are extremely safe, but we need to be aware - not fearful and not living in a world of suspicion and doubt - and to take our responsibilities seriously.

Ho, Ho, Ho - it's still a really super Tuesday.

Christmas cards and Letters

Just had a delivery from the postman and one of the letters contained the ultimate in 'naff' Christmas!

Now I have friends who have a subscription with a service which send cards and presents to his family members at all the right times (i.e. birthday, Christmas, Anniversaries) and not only does it mean that the card arrives, but it keeps a register of the gift sent each year to avoid duplication.

The family members are impressed that they always get a card (they asked for his signature and this appears, in a different colour ink, on the cards!) and the present is always something they're happy to receive (he ticked a list of likes, interests and dislikes for each family member when setting the service up!).

Now, I am more than a little appalled at this, because it 'ticks the boxes' but says nothing about his relationship or his feelings for those who receive the cards and gifts. He's 'doing the right thing' and that's about the limit of it.

Well, I've just had a laser printed envelope which contained a Christmas letter which began, "Dear Friends," and went on to outline the exciting places the family had been, the achievements of the w√ľnderkind and a myriad number of smugness quotient elements besides.

It wasn't personal, it wasn't aimed at anyone - it just ticked the boxes and so - it's in the recycle box!

Perhaps next year their computer could just talk to ours and we could cut out the middle man?

And by the way, I didn't recognise the family, the names or the location in which they lived - which made it even worse - third-party Christmas detritus.

Ha, bumhug!

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 12

I rather like the idea of a snowman in the desert and of course, Epiphany is not that far off now!

Terry Jones - No Longer Invited

In an amazing twist, the English Defence League have shelved their plans for Terry Jones to speak at an event early next year because of his 'critical views on homosexuality and race".

Although a welcome move, I find this all a bit surprising. More surprising still is the EDL claim that Jones had 'Approached them several times, wanting to speak at an event." Makes you think that the man might be more interested in personal fame (notoriety?) than the Gospel, doesn't it?

A EDL member, Guramit Singh told BBC Radio Derby, "A few of us have been debating the question of whether we bring him or not and after doing some research and seeing what his personal opinions are on racism and homosexuality, we are not allowing him to speak at our demonstration. He is not the right candidate for us.

Although the English Defence League are sincere to what he has to say about Islam, we do not agree with some of his manifesto such as some of his issues with homosexuality and some of his issues with race. The EDL is anti-homophobic and we are a non-racism organisation."

Jones still says he's coming to the UK and I assume that wherever he goes and wherever he gets to speak will be quite closely monitored. And as much as I welcome the words of the EDL, the actions still need to be watched with regard to this man and the membership generally.

None of us want a two-tier society. The rules apply to all equally and without hindrance or favour, this is the Christian way of life - of course it's not shared by many of the secularists who seek to have one society on their terms, excluding whatever they deem to be unacceptable.

I am happy for people to hold those views, or any other views. Faith groups are not a threat for they have (generally) been there a long time and they (and their members) work alongside other faiths in peace and with a mutual respect. Where this doesn't happen is where the seeds of societal damage lie - not in trying to abolish God. So many of the secularists are merely examples of 'learned ignorance' and the 'closed minds' they claim to see in Christians (and others). Those who disagree with us are not always wrong - a good premise to start with I reckon.


ps. For the record, I have written to Pastor Jones. I haven't (perhaps unsurprisingly) received any response - I won't hold my breath!

The Christmas Star

Yesterday was one of those busy days that starts with a school assembly and finishes with a church council meeting. Every minute of it was brilliant and the starring role was taken by infants from a local school.

They came and we had a Christingle service where they listened, answered questions, sang brilliantly and the recited the 'Lord's Prayer' perfectly!

We used glow sticks for the candles and it was still a great sight (without the danger) - one of those 'aaaah' moments for all the adults who were present.

Regardless of the workload ministry in general (and Christmas in particular) is a blessing, privilege and joy.

Roll on today - almost as busy, but today is taken up with funerals and health-related issues, and it's still excellent!

Happy Tuesday.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Post Office (lack of) Efficiency

Last Saturday we did another 'Messy Church' event which meant that just over sixty people filled the church building. There was noise, there was Christmas music and there was lots of very obvious activity. Yet somehow, quite amazingly, the person employed by the Post Office to deliver packets (for it packet it was, not a flat and definitely not a parcel either) managed to miss the fact that the front door was open and that the building was definitely occupied.

Having missed the obvious signs, he rang the Vicarage doorbell and left a card telling us that there was no one in the church or the house and so he'd taken the packet back to the Delivery Office. Hey ho, not a great problem, thought I, I'll go early Monday morning. And so I did, and after collecting the last three items from said place and being told I didn't need identification other than the little red card, today I was told that I need other forms of identification. Now it was addressed to me, I had the card and I was wearing a dog-collar, but the bloke said, "I can't give it to you, I'm only doing my job!" and that was it!

Now, I'm frustrated because I usually grab my wallet (with all the ID ever needed) and I'm frustrated because a few collections back I was told that I couldn't have the item because I didn't have the red card. Apparently ID isn't needed, it's the card that proves you can collect it!

What a bunch of Wallies the Post Office appear to be at times. The packet in question (the Postie did show it to me) wasn't what I was in dire need of, it was something posted fourteen days ago! Leads me to wonder whether privatisation of the Post Office might not be a wrong move after all.

That said, I'm still waiting for a packet that was posted last Wednesday and received a book through the post that took just over two weeks to come all the way from South London. So not sure whether I'm frustrated at the 'jobsworth' Postie, the naff service of the Post Office generally (any one else noticed how some days there's no delivery and then you get a mountain (it's all about doubling up and managing the walks!) or the fact that we often get out mail (when addressed to the 'Parsonage' tossed into a hedge up the road when our regular (superb) Postwoman is away.

Seem to me that the Post Office is in need of some very drastic surgery.

Still, the Delivery Office encounter was funny and will do many a lunch-time as entertainment among the other dog-collars.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Terry Jones comes under scrutiny

Terry Jones and his planned visit in the New Year has come to the attention of the Home Secretary Theresa May and she she will be "actively looking at" whether he should be banned from entering the UK. Trouble is that I don't much agree with people being banned either, after all, we live in a supposedly free and democratic society!

It would of course be better if Pastor Jones actually used what's between his ears, although going by his Koran burning event (whether it happened or not) I'd say there's little chance of that happening. The man doesn't really appear to have a clue. An assessment borne out by the fact that he's apparently planning to speak against "radical Islam", not "all Islam". Burning the Koran acts against all Muslims, not just radical Muslims and if he can't see that then I very much doubt he'll shed much light on Islam either. It would have been better if they'd invited Barnabas Trust.

Of course, banning the bloke will have the EDL complaining of two-tier societies and yet the irony is
that by admitting Jones, they are supporting a two-tier society. The paucity of Jones's wit is clearly on view when he tells the press that he doesn't intend to burn a Koran in the UK (which is good because he'd be on a charge of incitement before he could sing the star-spangled wotsit!). What a prune!

The bottom-line is that Christians need to tell Pastor Jones that he's part of the problem and not the solution, especially with some of the comments flying around in this story. Here's three of the wackiest:

"We have no problem with Muslims - we have freedom of speech and religion - Muslims who want to make our country their country, obey our laws and constitution."

"We have a problem with them, which I believe you all have also, when they go on the street... and they call for the death of the UK, for the death of Israel, for the death of America. They call for Sharia law."

"They say they are going to turn Buckingham Palace into a mosque and the Queen must convert to Islam or leave the country."

What sort of drugs do you have to be doing to utter this tripe?

If we wish to bring peace we need to be peace-loving. Sadly, I don't see this in the writings, acts or (published) attitude of pastor Jones. Perhaps he'd be better off ministering to his flock rather than being a media star? So, if we're asked about it, the answer is that this is a non-issue and the bloke speaks for no one but himself (and definitely not for God).

If you feel strongly about this issue, why not send a (reasoned) communication to the man via his church system explaining what EDL is and what his visit will do for the Gospel in this country and for the nation as a whole.

Contact pastor Terry Jones

And if he comes, be assured that his own words and the people with whom he associates will show the mettle of the man and paucity of any Christian witness. Please God he decides not to come rather than have him barred from entry.

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 11

I wondered if this card had been sent to me by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but being a primate rather than a mere chimp (Pan troglodytes), probably not!

Still I guess if it were from him he'd have to have sent this instead (it's the hat that gives him away!

The answer to yesterday's question was (of course) a 'fridge in a dinner jacket.

Today's question is: "What is an Ig?"

International 'Invite a Wally Day"?

One of the great bastions of all that appears to be wrong with the Christians faith, Terry Jones, has been invited to come to the UK and share his views on Islam by the English Defence League (EDL). Perhaps they'll invite that other great icon of all that is awful and wrong, Fred Phelps, too?

If the EDL are really interested in getting their 'working class' members informed about Islam and the real issues surrounding the radicalisation of Muslims in this country there are a number of places they could go and they would be both nearer to home and would know what they are talking about.

We must not bend to terrorism, but neither must we fuel the idiots who would seek to draw lines and set the conditions for prejudice and aggressive acts against people because of their colour, race or creed. I'm just glad I'm not Home Secretary, Theresa May, because her department will have to decide whether the bloke comes in or not. If he does, I'm sure the person who invited us all to engage in an "International Burn a Koran Day" will find he's most welcome and will definitely get a warm welcome!

And having read the words EDL leader used to defend the dignity of the 'f***ing Bible', to be honest, I don't have a great deal of confidence in the group and think that unless Terry Jones is a bigger fool than he's already made himself out to be, he'd be well placed to withdraw from any engagement with them.

The Galatians six rule applies here: If we (as Christians) see something wrong, then we are called upon by God to offer correction, restoration and renewal, but we have to make sure that we don't let our zeal for the task lead us into doing something wrong ourselves.

This is where Westboro and its pastor, Fred Phelps falls down (as this photograph of him and his missus on a day out clearly shows):

This is where Terry Jones falls down thanks to his ill-advised 'Burn a Koran' day:

We need to live as Christians, especially against those who seek to do evil, not become like them.


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 10

One of those environmental cards which points to the 'Christian' issue of 'Climate Change' (the phenomenon formerly known as 'global Warming'):

I have to be honest, I know all about being good stewards of the earth and caring for that which God has given us, but I still find the almost 'ransom' like approach, coupled with a healthy dose of smug self something or other that all those 'Christian' environmentalists heap upon us as tiresome (and unscientific) as the nutters with their 'young earth' and 'creationist' codswallop!

[Yawn] Still, whilst they're bothering us I guess they're leaving the sinners alone [/Yawn]

Talking of intelligent design (which we weren't of course), how clever is a 'fridge that it knows when to put the light on?

And here's a question for you all:

What's black and white and really cool?

It's not *!$**! 'Happy Holidays'!

I was a bit surprised to have recently been subjected to the verbal abuse that is 'Happy Holidays!', especially when the person wishing me such had probably never been nearer to the US than the Disney Channel. It's one of those ghastly things that's managed to swim the Atlantic and creep onto our shores (more likely come across by airwaves and by cinematographic means to be honest). Some of the others being' "I'm sorry for your loss," and "That was a fun experience," and the language abuse we find now that thing no longer have an impact on, but merely 'impact'.

Secular groups in the US have fought to remove Christian images from Christmas and it is because of this fear of being [insert whatever you think it is] that we find this weak, wishy-washy, naff expression! There are groups in the US who have organised boycotts of retailers who use the word Christmas and the US corporate world appears to struggle at the word Christmas lest they offend anyone. An interesting aside is that the 'Liberty Councils' latest poll as part of its 'Friend or Foe' campaign found that 69% of the people polled preferred 'Merry Christmas' over 'happy Holidays'.

Using the word Christmas does not offend members of other faiths, it only offends secularist who create cock and bull stories about being offensive in the hope that fear will drive stores (and others) to water Christmas down for fear of losing sales. Look at Wal Mart, a company who sell 'holiday trees' and (reputedly) staff are not allowed to respond to 'Merry Christmas' in case it offends other shoppers!

But they do offend, they offend me greatly because the celebration is called CHRISTmas and the Coca Cola icon of Santa Claus, AKA Father Christmas (FC), Chris Cringle or whatever is of course - St Nicholas. Gosh!  Two Christian personalities (assuming we take Christ as Christian too!) fighting to be the 'reason for the season'.

We have the films which tell us that we'd lose Christmas unless we save FC and presents are the meaning for the season. Well, near enough - PRESENCE is the meaning for the season, the presence of Jesus Christ, born in a manger in Bethlehem (so the Bible story says), Mary's boy-child, Jesus Christ, waas born on Christmas Day (I'll leave you to sing the rest).

It isn't Winterval, Winteride, Argostide, Chanukah (1-9th December this year) or anything else - it's CHRISTMAS.

Mind you, it's Adventide at the moment and so I'll hold back on the 'Merry Christmas' for a few more days if you don't mind and leave you with this bumper sticker:

Friday, 10 December 2010

What time's the midnight service?

I was the victim of a grievous assault this week!

Minding my own business, the dog-collar proudly proclaiming that I was a 'vicar for hire' and that all you needed to do was stop me and buy one, I was assaulted by a chap who wanted to tell me all about Argostide and ask me what time the midnight service was. I explained that the midnight service was timed such that we'd be doing the service when midnight came and that eleven forty-five would therefore appear to be a good time for that.

He gratefully accepted the information and then asked whether there was anywhere that did it a bit earlier, say eight o'clock because he'd like to be there to sing 'all those lovely old carols' but he'd also got a party he wanted to be at a bit later. I explained that midnight was a bit special as it provided a way of delineating between Christmas Eve and Christmas day, after all we can sing 'yea Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning from 00:01, can't we?

He looked a bit crestfallen and then asked whether there was a later service instead then? I asked him what time the party finished. He replied that it was set to be an 'all-nighter' and so I suggested that perhaps this indicated that he should come to the 08:30. Sadly, he'd either be in bed or too drunk for that, but he really wanted to sing the carols because that's what Christmas was all about. (So it's not Santa, not the Kiddies but it's the musical aspects that make it Christmas - more grist to the mill).

I explained that we had a 'carols by candlelight' service the Sunday before and that this would provide the opportunity he sought to sing 'all those lovely old carols' and get a mince pie and a glass or two of mulled wine into the bargain. He nodded (unconvincingly) and turned to leave, wishing me a 'happy holidays'!

Argostide and 'happy holidays'! Both of these, as I understand it, deny everything that Christmas is and is about. One indicates that Santa came 'for the kiddies' to bring presents and to encourage us to build health credit card balances (healthy for the companies, not the customers) and the other recognises that there's a few days off work to get larruped, engage in casual sex (a radio item this week reported that 'the average person' will have 2.4 sexual encounters over the christmas period), measure our happiness quotient (which appears to be higher if you're spending!) and lump Christmas into a mishmash of Christian, folk and other religious beliefs and ideas!

"Actually," I said, "Merry Christmas is more accurate!" "Yeah, whatever," came the reply!

Bah, humbug!

Anyone fancy coming to an eight pm midnight service?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas Cards - the Good, the Bad and the Weird - 9

After the last card, here's one which will (hopefully) restore the balance a little and take us back to the, recent, classical card:

Interestingly, there's more than the Coca Cola image with the green gloves in this image.

Is it me, or does just about every Christmas film give the impression that should we lose Santa we'd lose Christmas? After all, he is the reason for the season (apparently).

Big Society - Big Mistakes

It is fast becoming obvious that the money available to make our society better is disappearing into the distance and that any money available will be used to fix society's problems rather than prevent them! The 'sink' estates will have all the money poured into them whilst those considered to have less pressing needs will be effectively ignored, that is until the problems there become so pressing that they too require some form of intervention.

Across the country, many project workers have, or will be fairly soon, given redundancy notices and lights will be turned off at calendar or fiscal year end. Many of theses projects will just cease and much of the good work that has been done will be lost. That is,unless the 'Big Society' kicks in and picks up where the funded provisions have been lost.

The reality is that government (national and local) are aware that faith groups are the only way that stuff will continue, as the numbers of Home Start staff who are being canned clearly shows!

Speaking of the way that the American Church lost out to psychotherapy during the late fifties asked whether "Evangelical religion has sold its birthright for a mess of psychological pottage?"* The pastoral role was taken away from the Church and taken up by Psychiatrists. Likewise, in this country the Church in this country has seen its societal role eroded over the past as government-funded or supported projects have taken over, and Church was consigned to the back seat and to irrelevance and virtual non-existence. And now, because it's got no money - they want to give it all back. But I'm pretty sure that this is the work, not the money to do it!

And the reality is that we will continue to be effective in our communities, being in the places we have always been working with the marginalised and the troubled (and troubling) sections of the communities we are called to serve. Because we're called to serve those around us. Always have been, always will be and undoubtedly, once the panic is over government will try once again to marginalise us.

* The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion‎, O.H. Mowrer, 1961, D. Van Nostrand

The Bible - how do you read it?

Continuing from yesterday, and in the light of a piece I read which claimed the issue of student grants was a 'Christian issue' it is obvious that great potential exists for us to use the Bible such that it supports what isn't there and it is essential that we don't cherry pick to support our own views, theological stances or smug little campaigns.

There are some obvious truths and some clear commandments and instructions but some of the stuff before us needs to be considered carefully before someone blithely proclaims, "This is a 'Christian' issue!' The biggest problem, for me, comes when people read purely and simply to support a view as undoubtedly they will find whatever they are looking for, even when it isn't there!

I particularly enjoyed this in ST's blog piece linked to yesterday regarding what the Bible is:

"It's a cultural library says Brian McLaren*. It's an agreed starting point, says Rowan Williams. It is, says Karen Armstrong (The Bible** - The Biography - Atlantic 2007), a place where we stand, as Moses stood once, sandal-less before a burning bush, praying for revelation and listening intently, willing to lay down our former preconceptions."

As we progress through Advent, living in the reality that the virgin having a baby is the lighting of the touch-paper that is salvation to the world, we should also realise that living in that reality makes us the bearers of it. We are charged with taking God's love and light out into the world and we need to make sure with do this with integrity and intelligence. The thought of us 'sandal-less and praying for revelation' is stirring and exciting and as we wait, we should be searching - an active act in what might otherwise be a passive act.

*Brian Mclaren's 'A New kind of Bible Reading' is an interesting and stimulating read on this subject.

** Karen Armstrong's book is a good read too!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

I believe what the Bible says! "Close Book, Closed Mind!"

So says Steve Tilley in one of his blog posts.

The reality is (as RevSimmy comments) that "Much of the Bible does not provide "concise, simple statements of truth" as such. Rather, it uses narrative which has to be worked at to uncover truth and which may be quite ambiguous, especially when we do subject them to rigorous scrutiny. Even the teaching of Jesus is rarely as simple as we would sometimes wish to make it.

The problem is that we make so many issues 'Christian' and, I'm sorry to say, that some of these don't help the Christian cause very much at all, but then again, we change the 'Christian' viewpoint on so many things that constancy and consistency go out of the window.

It is obvious that our faith will determine how we think about some (all?) issues and we can see how the Bible, when it speaks explicitly on a subject makes our position obvious and(dare I say) immoveable! We can decide that some issues are a matter of opinion, but what does this mean for those who seek to be orthodox when truth is a changing quantity?

In his blog, Steve says three interesting things, which he knows will shock:

1. I don't believe what it says in the Bible

2. What it says in the Bible is wrong

3. God is a liar

Of course with his first statement - he speaks of divorce and the permitting of it in church now. Problem is that permitting divorce might say this on the surface but when one studies the issue it is obvious that the whole point of a bill of divorce was to 'permit' marriage. But superficial reading causes problems (the person who told me they needed no Bible education or theology, they could suss it all was a complete nightmare).

I'd say of the second statement, that when people prooftext (i.e. take a bit of Bible and read it/quote it to make their point, even when the piece is out of context) they face the danger of making the Bible appear such that "What it says," is wrong!

Statement three relates to the fact that Adam and Eve ate the fruit and did not die. Therefore, Steve says, God is a liar! But death did become a reality for them and so it is not merely a metaphor (a smug way of often saying it's something other than what it is) but a true statement. God didn't say they would drop dead, He said they would die - that is lead to certain death.

So strike three - you're out, has to be the response to the three statements.


They highlight something very important about understanding God, His Word and how we make our choices and decide what is a 'Christian' issue though.

All food for thought!

(and that's not the end) - off to do school Christingle,


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Monday, 6 December 2010

What do we have leaders for?

Last night, during our evening service, which was'thinking theologically', we found ourselves facing some very interesting questions. We're currently discussing the issue of 'theodicy' and the issue of God, suffering and evil. We've been looking at the logic of evil and we've moved on to discus evil and 'original sin'.

One of the questions was particularly challenging:

"Why don't those people who are the leaders of our denomination keep to God's Word and why don't they help (and protect) us ordinary people from having a line that just keeps on moving! Surely," they said, "What we believe must be constant and so those in leadership should be helping us maintain our consistency, not keep changing that which we believe to accomodate others or make us acceptable to others!"

And you know something? This is a very good question.

How can we expect new converts to understand how that which has been taught as being wrong for so many years (like, for ever?) can suddenly become right? When the line that has been drawn for so many years is suddenly turned into a wavy line to permit some to act as they please and see themselves as no longer at odds with the Church or God's Word is it any wonder that those new believers question whether or not the Church of England might just not be a little bit wrong?

When the line is moved, wholesale, to accomodate practices and endorse behaviour that Christianity has never endorsed, can we really be surprised that those who are new to the faith start to question whether this Christianity is true. After all, surely truth is an absolute not something that can be changed to suit the desires of some to be popular, acceptable and do so by looking like the world (and endorsing what the world does on the way!).

This young Christian was confused, for after all "either truth is true or it is not and if so much of what has been taught is now untrue, how can we believe that the remainder is true anymore?"

Indeed Why don't they?

Magic Circle wrecking the Church in England and Wales!

As a member of the magical fraternity my eyes were immediately drawn to this piece of news. It's not uncommon for people to tell me how doing 'magic' is against God's word and how by doing it in church I am bringing in the devil and like a great many people out there, information or knowledge doesn't help them move forward with that view. And so it was, with interest that I began reading, only to find that the 'magic circle' is in fact the:

"Back-slapping, foot-dragging liberals of the (Roman Catholic) Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (BCEW)."

This is the view of the conservative Catholic magazine, 'Catholic World Report' (CWR), a magazine which is a favourite read of benedict himself!

The article, by Dominic Scarborough, slags the 'circle' off big style as a bunch of 'lazy and sneakily disloyal prelates' and explains how the BCWE is a rigid bureaucratic structure centered on the idea of the central committee, employing a 'plethora' of professional lay and clerical sub-committees, all paid for by the ordinary Catholics it claims to represent. The irony is that the pursuit of this agenda has been to the detriment of halting the decline of the very working-class, “grass-roots” Catholicism that once gave the bishops a legitimate voice on issues of real social concern.

Forget Bennie's visit or being obedient, the BCEW devotes more time to frustrating the initiatives of Benedict XVI than to implementing them! The Ordinariate and the grim spectre it brings of 'large numbers of Anglo-Catholic clergy becoming a semi-autonomous part of the Catholic Church in England' does not find favour with the BCEW (which, says the article, "Has greeted every development in the progress toward the first English ordinariate with sighs and fear."

For those thinking they're heading to the promised land, I suggest this is an essential read:
Outside the Magic Circle

Seems all is perhaps not rosy on the banks of the Thames or the Tiber!