Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Smug Christians

Talked to one of those smug, self-satisfied, 'I'm in a proper church where we don't baptise babies and keep to the way the early church used to do it (in the fifties?)' types.

This person was full of how they ignored the initiation rites of the truly early church (first century) and only baptised 'believers'. They then told me about a couple who attended their church who had been 'put out' because of their infidelity. Not the best advert for their instance of 'real church' and doesn't say much for true believers either!

The conversation moved on to 'worship' (which has a space in their service, as opposed to our services which are all worship and nothing else). Seems that 'proper' churches fit what we do in a ninety minute service into twenty minutes and the rest of their service is sermon, prayer and notices - what a church, wish I was in one like that. They knew the names of people I'd never heard of and places I'd didn't know existed (IHOP - International House Of Pancakes?). Not only that, they were having a preacher who'd been on 'God Channel' and they'd attracted lots of new members from the churches around them (isn't that sheep stealing).

By the time they'd done I realised how grateful I was to be in an Anglican (CofE) church with proper worship snd liturgy and people who come (not from other churches but from no church to us) and love God, not the buzz and hype that apparently makes 'proper church'.

Sorry but that's 'pauper church' as I see it!


Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Vicar's (and other dogcollar's) Wife

She's subtle, efficient and kind,
she always knows her mind
She's Florence Nightingale,
She's Grace Darling,
When pressed she can be the Empress Ming!
She will tolerate the idiots,
And people who 'phone,
But just cross the line,
There's no mistaking in her tone.

Kindness itself,
She'll go the extra mile (and often even two),
But just try taking liberties,
and it's the morgue for you!
She'll do the Sunday School,
And even do the flowers,
She'll do one of the readings,
And she'll stay around for hours.
The first to arrive,
and the last to leave,
She'll laughs with those who're laughing,
And she'll grieve with those who grieve.

She answers the 'phone and opens the letters,
Can't tolerate those who feel they're her betters,
Pulls down the mighty from their seat,
And marks their cards (it's quite a treat)
Should any colleague dare presume
That life begins as they enter the room.
She sees through the pompous, jumped-up sod,
But leads the penitent to God,
And helps them lead a Godly live,
Three cheers, hooray for the Vicar's Wife!

Happy Mrs Vicarage day to all the clergy Spouses out there.
And 'THANK YOU' - We really couldn't do it without you!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Shoesmith, that Appeal (and a dead child)!

Sharon Shoesmith put up a robust interview over her successful appeal over her sacking as Director of Haringey's Children's Services following the 'baby P' death. The reason for the appeal going in her favour was asbout procedure rather than substance. Despite what she might say and think, this decision against a 'procedurally unfair' dismissal merely says that what should have been done was done the wrong way and for that we are now talking silly money in terms of compensation for the woman because of it (isn't that insult to injury).

What was sad in her radio interview was that she kept repeating the phrase that 'children do die' and seemed to think that she had become the scapegoat. Perhaps she should look at the situation of Colonel Jorge Mendonca who faced a court martial because of what happened in Iraq. Those he commanded were party to excesses and errors and he, as the Boss, was held ultimately responsible (although he was found not guilty of the charges against him and only one of those charged was eventually found guilty).

What she (and those line managers involved in the case) should have done was the 'right' thing and resigned. What Ed Balls should have done was let the proper processes be run out and the woman's part in the whole sad and sorry state be the proper reason, after proper process, for her proper dismissal. Regardless of the appeal Shoesmith's responsibility is not diminished, negated or excused.

It is wrong for people to treat Shoesmith as a pariah or issue death threats and make her the sole focus for contempt as the scapegoat for this tragedy, but so too is it wrong for the woman, or others, to regard herself as without blame either for at the end of the day it happened in her department and on her watch!

What we have before us is a weak and media driven local authority and government (with Balls as the figurehead in this instance) responding to the clamouring calls of a bloodlust public, driven by the 'news' establishment.

What we have is the fact that a young boy lost his life in a situation that was preventable and that today there are still many vulnerable youngsters in the same situation who are another tragedy waiting to happen. Especially as the pressures on social workers increase due to workload and cuts!

And then there's the 'substantial' compensation award that some are expecting - we live in a world gone mad, that's for sure!

I leave you with a comment from Ms Shoesmith made at the time of the incident:

"None of the agencies involved murdered this child. This child was killed by members of his own family. I certainly won't be resigning."

Sadly, she was, as I understand it, as shameful then as she is now in that regarding Peter's death she says that she doesn't blame herself! Seems to me she's in a minority and thanks to Ball's interfering she comes out of it potentially well rewarded too!


Friday, 27 May 2011

Images of the Christ - 2

One of the images of Christ which I have found to have caused the most reaction, even though much of it was surprise, from non-Christians was the image of 'Buddy Christ'. It comes from the film 'Dogma' and the idea was that it was a rebranding of Jesus to move away from the blood, gore and distance between Him and us.

Now the film was, bad language apart, one which I found to be rather good in terms of the theological challenges it created, that is until the last five minutes when God (Alanis Morrisette) turned up and the whole thing fell into the sea!

That aside, I bought a couple of 'Buddies' and one ended up on my computer monitor and the other on a senior police officer's desk. In my workplace people were a little shocked, but knowing I was 'one of the Christians' they sort of avoided any comment on it. I noticed though, that after a few days, when they'd had a good lood whilst I was absent, they started asking questions about it and it was areal ice-breaker. The senior police officer found the same and where the CPA (Christian Police Association) sticker hadn't brought any comments (or identification) fromChristians - soon people would just 'drop in' for a chat about their faith and their problems where there was no faith.

Seems that taking our faith seriously but ourselves less so and showing that rather than be offended (the people who introduced me to Buddy in the Swiss banking organisation I worked for were also worried they'd offend) we can deal openly and in a 'not up our own behindsides' (as an American colleague so nicely put it) opens doors.

So here he is:


Thursday, 26 May 2011

The things people say

I found an interview with the Chief Executive of a hospital that has been found wanting by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rather telling as he boasted that "We Always Put Our Hands Up and admit it was our fault!"

Some years back I was part of a court hearing where the defendant, when asked whether there was any reason for the court to suspect that the police officer who had been called for the prosecution might be exaggerating or embellishing what was being presented to the court replied with words to the effect, "No, none really, he's always been really good whenever he's nicked me before!"

It's amazing how often people condemn themselves by their own words and this morning I was led to think of Matthew 12:37: "The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you."

As a schoolboy I was collared by one of the masters for a presumed misdemeanour and in my defence protested that "It wasn't me this time!" to which the master responded that in that case I should consider myself being punished for one of the occasions when it was!

Seems to me that whilst trying to paint a picture of integrity, the Chief Executive actually painted a picture of continuing error and rather than enhance, or encourage, confidence his words actually diminished it!

How often do we do this I wonder?

Makes you think!


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Homage to the Mrs Vicarages

Having written about the Vicaring role, I must pay homage to a most wonderful breed of people without whom, if I am typical of the dog-collar breed, life would be impossible. The Mrs. Vicarage.

Behind many a manic preacher (of the non-street kind) there is this wonderful woman who keeps the kids on the right road, keeps the house working, keeps the family together and ensures that messages are taken (although sometimes lost in the deepest depths of the brain for days afterwards) and people are informed, placated, advised and generally cared for.

Whilst I am having a whale of a time doing 'the stuff' behind me stands a woman who is doing more of the 'the stuff', usually the bits that I would have otherwise missed.

So I think I will have to declare this Sunday 'Mrs Vicarage Sunday' and will have to break my own rule and buy her some flowers and treat her well (the rule is about flowers, honest bishop!).

What about you people out there?

If you're a dog-collar, tell your spouse how much you love them and cherish them this Sunday.

If you're not, then cherish your ministers' spouse and thank them for all that they do for the cChurch and the person (supposedly) leading!

Mrs. Vicarage Day is coming soon (and we don't need to ask Harold C about that one, we can make it so!).


More week than days

Seems to me, the challenge of ministry is that of being able to fit in more week than the days can give you. With the concertina effect of a motorway crash, days suddenly become compressed and it is a challenge to see where one ends and the other begins. More worrying is the feeling that between the two obvious wrecks is another smaller event!

A week like that recently saw two funeral visits being made on a Friday evening (after our Kid's Club') which meant I returned home at about ten. As I arrived I was aware of Mrs Vicarage and a visitor talking out the front. Well, to put it simply half past midnight saw a warden and me in Yorkshire taking our visitor somewhere safe! Back by three it wasn't that long before I was out of bed and leaving for a diocesan meeting which bled nicely into another church event and eventually the study, where orders of service for a couple of funerals were sorted and mailed (remember the two funeral visits) so the sheets could be printed in time.

Sunday dawned and I found myself doing an early communion elsewhere followed by our communion service, another home visit and checking the stuff was in place for a 'prayer focus' service - followed, of course, by the prayer focus service!

So there we are, forty-eight hours in the life of an average dog-collar. Average? Well it is here!

Now I write this, not for applause (for there shouldn't be any) and not for criticism (but there might be) but for understanding (which there isn't always) of the pressures on those who serve in the ministerial role.

Is my weekend 'average'? Well it was for me? Is it healthy? Well it is for me (in moderation anyway), Is it fun? You'd better believe it!

Take some time today to pray for those who lead you. If you're a church member - pray for your minister (and the person in the Mrs Vicarage role), the leadership team (elders, deacons, wardens, church council, the 'doers').

If you're a minister, pray for those with oversight of you.

If you're an overseer (pointyhead for instance), pray for Rowan and John.

If you're John, pray for Rowan.

If you're Rowan, may God help you, pray for us!


Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Rapture - Wait a minute

I forgot to count the other fingers!

So now we have a 'kind' God who's going to do the rapturing and the destruction in one go - now that what I call economy:

Economy of effort

Economy of Scriptural veracity (but does have a voracious appetite for Rapture predicting!)

Economy of brain cell usage (ask those who supported his last effort how they feel at the moment!)

Harold, you plonker, you've gone and done it again!!!


ps. I hate spellcheckers Oliver ;)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Thirty Pieces of Silver?

No, just a Shilling (sic!) is all it takes to deny freedom of speech and the expectation that those who put themselves forward as role models will act accordingly.

All it takes is money, and an admiring public's gaze, to render those 'celeb's' who break marriage vows, and betray trust (private and public), free from discovery thanks to the wonderful world of injunctions and even 'super injunctions'. It appears that the world of free speech and role models is to finally be laid to rest as, perhaps fatally, the law is seen to be one rather gigantic ass!

Schillings, representing the wonderful world of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) known as CTB, TSE and ELP and demanding that Twitter divulge names of those who have posted be made known, fight equally for those they represent to remain anonymous - funny world isn't it?

The law should be applied equally to all and just as I applauded Moseley's failure to use the law to conceal his acts I am saddened that the law is putting itself forward as a body that is out of touch and ridiculous in the way the injunctions have been graned.

I wonder how many Blackpool fans will find themselves arrested for breach of the injunction if they sung about a certain Man U player?

Still, at least he's proved he can score away from home!


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Stagging On

My introduction to 'stagging on' came on one of those nights you wouldn't send a dog out in. The time was early autumn, the place was Catterick area (a wonderful place of natural beauty situated in North Yorkshire), the occasion was 'basic training'. I was cold, tired and wanted to be warm, dry and in a warm bed having had a three-course meal.

We'd marched across the area, we'd done harbouring and snap ambushes and then been given a challenge to enter an area without detection or capture and finally at 02:00 we'd been told we could turn in for an 'early night'. I pulled the two hour slot that ran from 03:00. My task was to place myself at a point that afforded me a clear view of one site of our camp so that I could 'see' the enemy coming and challenge them and, if found to be 'naughty people' to raise the alarm and get everyone 'standing to'.

Yesterday we had lots of fun with Harold Camping and his exercise in failed mathematics that was the 'Rapture' and last night, after all the exertions and energy was expended at his expense, we needed to return to 'stagging on'.

Forget the cruel people who might call for understanding of those who act contrary to what the Bible says and yet vilified Camping, those who berated the man awfully and still call for special care of the mentally ill (and is he mentally ill or merely 'mistaken' on an extremely large and public scale?).

It is fair game to defend our pet causes and yet act disgracefully towards others and see nothing wrong in our acting as those we decry do! Forget the "This Wasn't the Day' brigade and realise that the diversion has now been passed and we need to return to our 'main task. which is:

One of the mil skills I learned was that we are most vulnerable after a 'contact' or a scare. Seeing nothing come of whatever it was causes us to drop our guards and then we are vulnerable. The Bible telles us (1 Thes 5)

"So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be be alert."

If we're not watching then we're not expecting something to happen - are we expecting the Lord to return? If you answer 'Yes' then I have to ask, "Are we ready"?

We stag on, looking out for any danger that might approach those whose lives we have responsibility for when we are on stag. if I fail to respond to a threat then I, and my comrades (AKA 'the family') might well perish. Ezekiel 3 tells us:

" I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die ford his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”"

Stop watching and their blood is on your hands. Better to call wrong and ruin people's sleep than ignore a threat and cause them all to die (wise words from my, then, Colour Sergeant!).

Until the Lord returns, that what we are called to do. Sideshows, distractions and diversions will come, but we keep on following the orders and running the race until we reach the goal and make the prize our own (2Tim2):

"Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.
And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules."

And then we will see the glory of the Lord, for us, and those whom our watching and warning has saved.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

It's Here - Are You?

I guess I should say, "If you can read this, you didn't go!" but that of course isn't true until tomorrow comes really. But despite the radio broadcasts, the column inches of press, the conversations the reality is that even the staff of Family Radio are expecting to be in work on Monday, and that perhaps says it all.

The Daily Express carries an article by Emily Fox, "The Rapture, predicted by Camping has gained global support, with some believers even quitting their jobs to prepare for the world's end." She continues by telling us that skeptics continue to be skeptical (well they would, wouldn't they) and also reports that Douglas Davies, Professor in the Study of Religion at Durham University, supports the idea. Oddly, I didn't read it that way, but then again, perhaps I wouldn't.

Davies says of today's prediction: "The nature of the biblical books of Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament is such as to give opportunity for readers to engage in numerical speculation. It is a kind of biblical literalism with numbers. Much depends on how you approach the 'substance behind' such thoughts.
The Rapture is one rather distinctive and recent American form of Evangelical literalism that can be interpreted in terms of one kind of American way of death and teaches that you won't need to die at all, but be caught up in the air and removed from this world while all sorts of demonic hostilities occur here."

Personally I struggle with this whole thing, but struggle especially with those who have given up their life savings, trashed careers and may well find themselves disappointed and lost this time tomorrow (I say 'may' because I don't have a clue when He will come and it could just as likely be today as tomorrow or the day after - I just don't know!) and most of all, the words of the banners proclaiming the Rapture:

'Judgment Day is coming May 21st, 2011 – The Bible guarantees it!'

And if Camping is wrong we can add his date to the many others. After all I will have (consciously) survived:

May 2011 - Harold Camping (Think we know him)
April 2008 - Pavel Kuzentsov (who sent his followers to hide and stayed at home!)
January 2000 - Y2K (Worked 36 hrs up to 08:00 on Jan 1st because everyone was so scared!)
April 1999 - Nostradamus (amazing what some loose writing can do for those seeking to interpret it!)
September 1988 - Edgar Whisenant (88 Reasons - but they obviously weren't)
September 1994 - Camping (Strike one?)
1993 (Various) - Loads people (Late Great Planet Earth, 'Thief in the Night (film) and the like brought about five prophesies that 1993 was it!)
October 1992 - Mission for Coming Days (Korean group who came, prophesied and didn't go!)

One famous one I missed:
March 1844 - William Miller (later revised to October, but still didn't happen!)

And a special 'Bargain Bucket' mention for the Jehovah's Witnesses who thus far have had 1914, 1918, 1925 and 1942. Still, probably time for another one or two (if Harold's wrong!).

So I'll leave this topic for today with three thoughts:

The Mayan people have a prophesy that the world will end on 21 December 2012 ('The Time of Trial on Earth') - so if you're here tomorrow, you have a bit of time before you need to panic over a date.

One of my (many) heroes, Sir Isaac Newton, calculated (from Daniel) that the Apocalypse could not occur before 2060 and he has been right more often than Harold Camping so should be more believable.

The whole point of the Rapture is that Jesus comes and claims His own. This means those who acknowledge Him as the Christ, have a relationship with Him, live according to His father's demands and most of all, accept that Jesus died for them (personally, knowing who you were and not just doing it for everybody 'en masse') and live in this wonderful reality.

So, if you're here tomorrow, rather than laugh at Camping perhaps you might start to live that new day, and every day, with Christ. Because He is coming and there won't be a warning when He really comes!


Friday, 20 May 2011


He shall come like a thief in the night,
That's what thieves do, come unannounced and unexpected,
But when you know they're coming,
They should know you're gonna be waiting.

So why tell people what He will do?
Get them ready tomorrow when He's coming today?
Get them ready to leave when He call us to stay?
Try to frighten them onto heaven's way?

And when He hasn't come who loses I wonder,
Those who have paid dearly for Camping's sad blunder!
For those who have given the money, their all,
Following Harold, who'll look like a fool!

But worse still than this man and his sad prediction,
Are those who consider our faith merely fiction,
Who see if it fails the whole Church of Christ,
Falling and failing denying the life,
And the cross,
And the grave,
and eternal life,
Of the Christ.

But the truth of the matter is quite simple so,
He will come again at a time no man will know.

Not even you Harold!

Thursday, 19 May 2011


So, just in case you're starting to worry about the imminent taking up of all the believers this weekend, I thought I'd give you a few facts and some things to consider before we hit the deadline (or should that be lifeline in this context?):

How likely is the Rapture?
Well, according to the 'Rapture Ready' website, the 'Rapture index stands at 182 at the moment, quite a distance from the all-time low of 57 recorded in December 1993. Then again, it is not as high as the all-time maximum of 184 recorded this April. So I guess those who record these things (How, I ask myself?) don't share Harold Camping's convictions (not that I believe he has any, I'm sure he's an honest, law-abiding citizen).

Fancy a bet?
No of course you don't because you're Christian but if you did, the last time I can find any British Bookie offerting odds on the end of it all it was William Hill (back in March 2003) and they offered nine hundred and nine thousand to one. Now, that's not bad odds at all, just think about it for a minute - a tenner placed on it would see you (if you paid tax when placing the bet) recoup something just under £9.1m. Now that would pay the parish share - then again, hopefully you've gone with them and the parish share won't need paying as there are few stipend costs and the atheists will nick all the building for carpet warehouses.

Perhaps we can forget that one!

Been predicted before?
Of course it has, many, many, many times before! In fact Harold Camping is not stranger to predicting the end having done it with a predicted date in September 1994. Hey ho, perhaps this time he's got it wrong and if he has, what will this mean for Family Radio I wonder?

If I was him, and I found I'd got it wrong, I'd leave poiles of clothes everywhere around the offices and hide somewhere for a long time to make it look like I was right. Have to wait and see on that one I guess.

If people are so convinced they are going, why aren't they giving stuff away?
This is a question one of the young people I met a while back asked me. Their reasoning was that as we can't take it with us, why don't we give away our cars, money and property on Friday night (regardless of time zone, it will still be Saturday we go, apparently)? A very good thought, anyone sure they are going can mail their money, property deeds and anything else to me in the hope that they won't miss it and I won't need it for our building fund, and if we are all wrong, I won't be one of those who keeps reminding them (especially if I have their stuff!!).

What? Some are doing just that?
And this for me is the saddest bit (if they're wrong) in that people like the sixty year-old, retired transit worker from Staten Island who invested his entire life savings of $140,000 into the campaign. "I’m trying to warn people about what’s coming. People who have an understanding (of the end the times) have an obligation to warn everyone.” Another follower, has abandoned the idea of going to medical school and she and her husband have apparently moved to Orlando where they have rented a home and are currently handing out tracts warning of the impending end.

I don't mind people being wring, but when they screw up the lives of others through it, especially in the way that this prediction is, I get a bit tired and angry!

Still, he wasn't the first and won't be the last, will he?


St Teresa of A(ston)Villa

Yes, that's right - AstonVilla

The Saints and Patristics team at Tamworth Theological college has unearthed documentary proof that in fact St Teresa of Avila was not a Spaniard at all but came from Witton and had her convent overlooking the Aston Villa ground. For year's theologians have toiled in the misunderstanding that it was 'Avilla' when all along it was actually 'Aston Villa'!

At last we can display the icon that confirms what has long been suspected and also explain away that loss of Arsenal last week to the claret and blues:

Many thanks to Doctor Willis, who has for years regarded the Villa ground as a shrine and a holy place.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011


Getting to feel like thunderbirds!

It had to happen. The question of what happens to your pets after you've been taken up has been addressed by an enterprising sort so that now you can leave assured that your pets will not be left to suffer or starve thanks to 'After the Rapture Pet Care:

Not bad for $135 but shouldn't subsequent pets at the same address command a cheaper rate? Wonder if their services reach as far as the West Midlands?

I note also that 'Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, USA' are increasing their fees because of the high demand caused by Saturday's predictions!


Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Days to Rapture?

With regard to Harold Camping and the Rapture, which he predicts will be this coming Saturday, I find myself both disturbed and intrigued. Disturbed because of the publicity and responses to this imminent 'Judgement Day' has attracted and intrigued because people are being urged to 'get ready'.

In an interview, Camping claimed that the Rapture will begin at six on Saturday 'on the other side of the country' with what he describes as a progressive earthquake that will go from country to country. This will see the graves thrown open and this is, "Absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, going to happen." Wisely perhaps, he refused to answer a question asking whether, if he was still around, he'd be willing to come back for a second interview.

But what do we take from this whole happening and how do we answer those who are already asking whether we really expect Jesus to return and what we're going to do when He doesn't? How do we deal with the people who want to ready for Saturday but aren't ready today?

This item from the Seattle News reflects the viewpoint of many atheists:

"Seattle atheist Paul Case is holding a "Rapture party" on Saturday. Speaking of the situation he says Saturday is a 'can't lose proposition, for if the Rapture happens and the Christians are transported to heaven, "We know as atheists, we're not going and if it occurs, it's a good thing for us, we get the real estate and cheap cars, and we won't have to worry about separation of church and state."

If, on the other hand, the Rapture doesn't happen, "It's another egg in the face of those who say the end times will come. So it's a win-win for us," Case said.

Looking at biblical passages, and using mathematical calculations, Camping says he's pinpointed the date of the Rapture to May 21. Those left on Earth will then go through five months of "horror and chaos beyond description" before the world ends on Oct. 21, according to Camping's Family Radio's website.

Thomas Holt, a volunteer with Family Radio, calls those who poke fun at Camping's predictions "scoffers," referring to 2 Peter 3:3-4, which says: "you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this 'coming' he promised?' "

But Camping's prediction is not widely accepted, despite his beliefs being featured on billboards in various cities and in media stories nationwide.

For many Christians, end-of-the-world scenarios aren't something they give much attention to.

And of the many who do, there have been concerns raised that Camping's prediction contradicts Scripture.

"There are a long line of brilliant people who, through intricate calculations, have made predictions about the end of the world," said Pastor Joseph Fuiten with Cedar Park Assembly of God Church in Bothell. "Unfortunately they have overlooked the obvious words of Jesus: 'You do not know the day or the hour' of such events."

But it's atheists, in particular, who appear to be poking the most fun. In Tacoma, producers of the weekly radio show "Ask an Atheist" are sponsoring the local Rapture party. Their slogan: "Countdown to Backpedaling: The End is Nah!"

While Seattle Atheists aren't hosting a party that night, they are collecting money for humanitarian relief should the Rapture occur. The end of the world "is obviously disconcerting news, and we thought we'd lend a hand," the group says on its "Rapture Relief" website. "While the rest of the world is tortured in this terrible Apocalypse, ... elite squads of godless heathens will ... help bring people out of the rubble and rebuild their lives."

(If the end times don't happen as predicted, Seattle Atheists says the money raised will go to Camp Quest, which teaches children critical thinking skills.)

Holt, of Family Radio, for one, has no doubt that the Rapture will occur Saturday: "The Bible clearly predicts it will.""

Monday, 16 May 2011

Going Up?

Tomorrow we start our five day countdown to the Rapture as predicted by Harold Camping (HC). So, here's a preliminary list of ten things to do for those who are expecting to be taken up on Saturday:

1. Cancel the milk,

2. (For pastors, dog-collars and those in ministry) Leave the service and sermon on the table just inside the church building for those who don't make it. In the 'Left behind' series, they leave a video to be played to those who are left, might be an idea.

3. (For church members) Write a letter resigning from your church because HC says that those who remain in church won't be taken up!

4. Write letters to all the people you have disliked and take them into work tomorrow. Put them in an envelope marked 'please post enclosed envelopes' and leave them in your top drawer for whoever is left to find and post. (see, you can have the very last word!)

5. Arrange to take Thursday off so that you can catch up on all those DVDs you wanted to watch.

6. Arrange to take Friday off so that you can repent of having watched them!

7. Write a cheque for all that unpaid tithe and put it in an envelope addressed to someone in your church that you know will still be there after the weekend and put it in the 'please post' envelope. That way you can honestly tell the Lord that the cheque is in the post!

8. Confess all your unknown and unconfessed sins. As they're unknown you can make them up if you feel you're a bit short. Bring to mind all the things you can remember and repent of them too!

9. Make sure you have clean underwear ready for Saturday. It would be awful for those left to have as their last memory of you being underwear you'd be embarrassed by (you might even pop out to ASDA or Tesco now and buy a new pair so you're really confident that you're leaving behind something to be proud of!).

10. Just in case you're left, it would be good to start thinking of reasons why this has happened. I'd also get hold of HC's telephone number so you can check he's gone if you're still here Sunday morning.

Divorce - the unforgivable sin?

Reading Lesley's blog and the account of her physio's experience regarding remarriage in the church and my thinking turned back to a vicar who was approached by a couple seeking a marriage in church. One of the couple had had a PMD (previous marriage dissolved) and so was told that a church wedding would not be available to them. After some discussion, the dog-collar told them that if they got involved in the life of the church, he would reconsider the situation after six months. They did - he did and decided that although they were now deeply involved members, tithing and engaged, his answer was still no.

The couple were pointed to me for advice as they were wounded and felt unloved, abused and even a little manipulated by their opportunistic (or perhaps worse) dog-collar. I soon ascertained that:

1. Neither of the parties seeking marriage had been involved with, or responsible for, the breakdown of the marriage,

2. Both were willing, and in fact desirous, of some time working through the expectations, realities and demands of marriage in the form of a marriage preparation class,

3. The church looks at restoration, forgiveness and helping people to learn from their experiences and move on in their relationship with God and with each other. When this desire is matched by the couple, then it is our task to lead people forward and affirm them (and honour God), not penalise and exclude.

So there was nothing to stop them being remarried in church. This diocese applies canon law to weddings and so the general rule is that people may be remarried in church (once, any more than that needs a jolly good reasons for it),

Of course, there are some who will wave their Bibles at me and tell me that by marrying divorcees I am placing them in a position of 'permanent adultery' and am contravening Scriptural warrant. Well, let's take a quick look at this then:

I begin, M'lud with Matthew 19:

"Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. wWhat therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for porneia and marries another, commits adultery.”

Now, to contextualise the passage (always a good idea), as I understand it there were two prevalent attitudes regarding divorce. One said that you could divorce your wife for any reason, the other said you needed a reason (i.e. she was getting old, fat, couldn't cook - you know, something valid!!). Jesus is speaking against the trivialsation of marriage and the lack of commitment to it.

I have replaced the words 'sexual immorality' for the original 'porneia' because we find this word translated as so many things (adultery, marital unfaithfulness, sexual immorality, unchastity, etc.) and what is relevant here is that it is a serious issue, not a trivial one.

A book of Jewish custom and practice I have on my shelf tells of those who would divorce their wife and marry a younger woman for a period of time (weekend), divorce her and remarry the first wife so that they have had their jollies without being adulterous. Legal and right in the eyes of the Lord (hence the passage that prohibits remarriage to a former wife!). This is the minefield we enter when considering remarriage and divorce.

I have to go off to a staff meeting and so will leave you with an interim thought:

A bill of divorce is given to permit remarriage, not to end the marriage. The bill of divorce is a recognition that the marriage has ended and permits a person to be remarried without causing adultery to occur. Consider this:

In biblical times a woman finds herself divorced. She is no longer a wife and is no longer the property of her father. How does she live? She cannot remarry, for to do so would cause the man who takes her on to commit adultery. The woman is given a bill of divorce which states that she is ritually free to marry and that anyone who marries her is not in a state of adultery. Thus it is simple to demonstrate that the bill of divorce is a permission (ritually, theologically, practically) to remarry.

When one gives an engagement ring, it is a sign that a relationship exists, for it is not the ring that makes the relationship. It merely acknowledges what is.

When one gives a wedding ring, it does not make the marriage, the vows, promises and the couple do that, but it acknowledges that a marriage exists.

So too does the bill of divorce. It does not break the relationship, the couple have done that, but it recognises the break and makes it possible for restoration, succor, support and love that is marriage to exist with another, blessed and right before God.

Simples, isn't it?


Israel - stepping back a little

I've already had a couple of mails telling me that Israel was 'merely defending itself from foreign invaders when it shot those people' and therefore, under international law acted lawfully.

Let's look at some of the ways that others dealt with protesters coming together to remember the 'nakba', the 'catastrophe ' that for them saw Israel established with a homeland and others (them) made homeless.

In Cairo the security forces fired warning shots and used tear gas to disperse protestors outside the Israeli embassy.

The Lebanese authorities fired in the air as they sought to disperse the protesters.

The Jordanian police used tear gas to disperse protesters gathering near the Israeli border.

Israel started with tear gas and rubber bullets but, characteristically, allowed itself to be baited and led down its usual excessive path. It was obvious that some of the crowd were being stirred up and the key to the managing the situation is proportionality and containment. The problem comes in that those who seek to arouse and enflame the passions of the protesters find that they no longer need to do so once the first dead person is carried away.

Those who protested might not have carried firearms, but sticks and stones can indeed break bones, and whilst some are claiming that those who died were innocent and unarmed, there is plenty of guilt to go around. Both sides have transgressed and both are guilty, but sadly some are made more guilty than others because of the wounded and the number of dead protesters.

What is assured is that Israel's General Mordecai sees the situation correctly when he says that, "We are seeing here an Iranian provocation, on both the Syrian and the Lebanese frontiers, to try to exploit the Nakba day commemorations,". The problem is that if you knows that you are being provoked, the best response is not to give those provoking the ammunition they seek to escalate the situation. In the current situation, Israel has failed to do that and given the sea change in Egypt's attitudes to israel, the unsettled state of affairs in so many nation, the call of a senior Hamas leader for Islam to rally and unite against the usurper and aggressor, Israel, this could prove very costly on both world and Middle East stages.

The finger pointing will doubtless continue. Israel will continue to claim it used sensitive, minimal force and Hamas and pro-Palestinians will claim the people were unarmed and merely protesting. Neither are telling the truth. Neither have any integrity. One side has the dead to make them look, once again, excessive and wrong - which, as I read and watch, they are!


ps. No SC, I'm not pro-Palestinian, or anti-Israel, I'm for justice, mercy, humility, balance and a peaceful response and solution.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Protesters shot by Israeli forces

Reports are coming in regarding people having been killed by Israeli troops who opened fire on protesters at the various border points as they marked the founding of Israel in 1948.

Although the Israelis are pointing to the fact that the protesters had broken through the border fencing and claiming that these people posed a threat, I have to say that I fear the greatest threat to Israel is their shooting of unarmed demonstrators. Israel considers themselves to have merely used 'selective fire' but the deaths and wounded will only cause more tension and erode the already lessened goodwill from Egypt. Just how much of a threat the man dancing before a camera only to be shot, as shown on the ten o'clock news tonight, remains to be seen. How much damage footage like that will do is obvious and demonstrates a lack of balance, perspective and political (let alone moral) intelligence.

The news has already shown people calling for the Islamic world to unite and make a stand against Israel and this is only, sadly, the tip of the emerging iceberg that seeks to sink Middle East peace and drag the US (and therefore by inference and association) others into yet another area of conflict.

What a sadness.


Praying, Sharing, Caring - the Acts 2 model

I am a great fan of Acts 2: 42 - 47 and in my missioner role, I come a cross a good many people who especially love the "The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved," bit! The problem is that many I meet suddenly find the impetus for church growth is the Parish Share or emptying (or in one case, empty) buildings.

So what can we learn from todays lectionary reading from Acts?

A healthy church is passionate about the word of God.
This means that the members read it (if only this were true)
That the ministers read it for themselves (should we do a straw poll on this?)
That the word of God is taught faithfully (Mmmmm - one local bloke tells me it's a book of suggestion for living, not rules for life!!!)

That a healthy church lives as a family (or perhaps a cup of tea after the service is adequate?)
A healthy church meets to share a social evening to enjoy each other, not to raise money!
A healthy church cares for each other, even the mentally ill!

A healthy church breaks bread together (including the reforming alcoholics)

A healthy church has members who pray regularly (and I don't mean when their team is playing!)
A healthy church comes together for prayer (oh well!)
A healthy church has people praying for others.

A healthy church prays for, expects, and sees signs and wonders (do we, are you?)

A healthy church lives in their own homes and lives with others in relationship such that when a need arises, it is dealt with from within the church.
When one member has a need, then all have a need and all find a way to resolve that need (but we're not stupid - keep getting into debt and you'll also find a healthy church has wisdom and does discipline!!!).

A healthy church meets regularly. The church is out doing and being and the building is open and welcoming those who aren't Church.
A healthy church sees members visiting other members, eating, drinking and sharing their lives outside of the Sunday (mandatory) engagement!

A healthy church is attractive and compelling and you have to ask people to stop joining because otherwise we'll have to start working and being effective in the community!

A healthy church doesn't worry about Parish Share, it's too busy sharing in the Parish!

And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Tick the list above and then:

1. Pray about who you are,

2. Pray about who (and what) your church is,

3. Ask God for directions for you (me), them (us) and them (those outside)

4. Listen to God (He can speak if you give Him the chance),

and then nag your pastor/minister/shepherd/dog-collar/congregation accordingly


"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Images of the Christ - 1

I was sent a image recently of Paul Fryer's 'Pieta'. A shocking (not a pun, sorry) depiction of the death of Jesus, not on a cross, but in an electric chair.

Those with whom I have previously (privately) shared this image have exhibited a range of responses ranging from shock and even anger through to a consideration of what means the Christ might have been put to death using had the time, or the people doing the capital punishment, been different.

So I have the image here for a reason. As you look at it, does it make the penalty He paid for you any more powerful or does it diminish the act? Is the sacrifice of Christ made different because the means of killing is different? Do we see the means as any more, or less, humane than the crucifixion?

What do we think when we see 'art' depicting the things we see as sacrosanct? Is is offensive or does it challenge us to consider the penalty differently.

I'll tell you my thoughts a little later, but for now I will leave you to yours:


My naked pics!

This morning, checking the emails I came a cross one (supposedly) from one of my colleagues in the Parish, with the heading 'My naked pics'. Fearful and full of trepidation I continued reading.

Had my neighbouring finally flung aside the last vestiges of rational existence, along with his clothing, and decided to return the Garden of Eden? Had he decided that he'd found the way forward in terms of gaining early retirement and somewhere on the South Coast there were deckchair and blanket awaiting him? Would I, if continuing to scroll down, be turned to a pillar of salt like Lot's wife?

Well actually, I'll never know because there was a message from my service provider telling me that whatever the image was (if it were an image at all) I'd never see it as it had been deleted by their antivirus cleaner!


Just goes to show that there is a God, either way!!

Happy Saturday people - off to a diocesan bunfight (as if Saturday didn't have enough stuff of its own!)


ps. If you receive a mail with the heading 'My Naked Pic' - delete it, for it contains the 'Downloader' virus.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Dinner Graces

I am in the most privileged position of being invited to a number of dinners, albeit to do 'the grace', and as a result have to endure some of the most awful graces before the meal commences. It seems to me that all too often we are subjected to the most awful doggerel and smug self-satisfied tosh masquerading as 'the grace'.

The last few I have been present at were attempts at being funny coupled with the words of two or three humour-filled graces, which were made into one. This was followed by the person giving the grace looking around (ooh, aren't I clever, witting or stupid?) for laughter, applause or some other sign of approval.

The problem is that being assigned 'the grace' is not an opportunity for the speaker to shine, but rather a privilege, and quite solemn duty, in that they are leading those gathered in communication with God (as He is perceived or otherwise)!

The last grace I had to endure consisted of an introduction to the evening (which the president had done at the greeting), followed by a cute rhyming ditty in honour of the evening, the speaker, and the evening followed by what I recognised as two humorous graces lumped together to make us all laugh even more. Having completed the task, the person 'praying' (I use the word advisedly) looked around for signs of approval, before sitting down. This wasn't 'Grace' - it was someone being the cabaret!

Thing to remember when doing 'the grace':

1. This is not the opportunity to demonstrate your skills in the creation of rhyming doggerel,

2. It is not an opportunity to poke fun at colleagues or make 'in' comments about whatever it is that you and your mates find funny in your own little world outside of the dinner,

3. It is not an opportunity or perform some hideous kowtowing or other ingratiating homage to the guest of honour,

4. It is not an open mike session in the 'puerile prune' stand-up comedy club.

What 'the grace' is:

1. It is an opportunity for the person saying 'Grace' to lead those present into a place of thanks and reflection for the fare that is being placed before them,

2. It is an opportunity to give thanks for the fellowship about to be had, and for those with whom it will be had,

3. It is an opportunity, especially in a military or veterans setting, to remember those who are serving: A place to remember those who have served and to give thanks for service and commitment, and

4. At the right time, and in the right place, it is an opportunity to give people the space to remember those who would once have been at table with you but are no longer here. It's a space for reflection - not eulogies. Do this wrong and you can destroy the whole evening!!

The grace can be delivered with humour and also be topical, but it in not the light entertainment before the meal, that is the place of the Jester, not the person saying grace.

Some graces are awful and need shooting (along with those who so enjoy reciting them?).

 An example of this probably being:
  "May we not be like porridge, cold and stodgy, but like Cornflakes, crisp and ready to serve! "

And of course there's that wonderful grace so loved by Air Force types:
 "God of goodness, bless our food, keep us in a pleasant mood.
   Bless the chef and all who serve us, and from indigestion, Lord, preserve us. Amen."

Or perhaps the classics (used often in so many places:) ):
"For well-filled plate and brimming cup, and freedom from the washing up.
  We thank you, Lord. Amen."

"For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful!"

There are a few good sources of graces. It is helpful to remember that in a service setting, collects and other prayers are also useful and fitting, to this end I have listed below a few sources of graces, collects and prayers such that you should never need to descend into the "For what we are about to receive fall back. "

Air Force Chaplain's Graces

Army Collects and other prayers

Naval Graces

I'd be more than happy to receive your best, and worst, examples of a dinner grace as those for whom this post is aimed could do with all the help they can get. I'm always happy to help people who need a grace and can't find one - just add a comment or email me (St Francis' link will lead you to me).

I've been asked to add a couple of less 'full on graces' for Christmas meals, so here they are:

Love brought Jesus to the stable and love brings us around this table,
As we share Christmas meal, may each and everyone here feel,
The Christmas presence that makes this, and God's blessing, ours today. Amen.

We're here to eat and we're not messing as we share this Christmas blessing,
So let's all drink and be merry not  worrying about our expanding bellies
For that is ours another day, so God bless and spare us all we pray! Amen.

Enjoy the privilege - take the role seriously - bon appetit!


Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Wedding Blessing Service

This service has served me well in anniversary and post civil registration blessing service settings. Saw a request for one, so I thought I'd post it here (as it will soon be replaced at the top of the pile by other posts):

A Celebration of Thanksgiving for marriage
Entry to  . . .
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of The Holy Spirit be with you all. 
And also with you.

God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.

Prayer of Preparation
God our Father, you have taught us through your Son
That love is the fulfilling of the law;
Grant to your servants BOB and BETTY that, loving one another,
They may continue in your love until their lives’ end;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


We have come together in the presence of God
To give thanks with BOB and BETTY for their marriage,
To rejoice together and to ask for God’s blessing.
As our Lord Jesus Christ was himself a guest
At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, so through his Spirit he is with us now.

Marriage is a gift of God in creation and a means of his grace;
It is given that a husband and wife may comfort and help each other,
Living faithfully together in times of need as well as in plenty,
In sadness and in joy, in sickness and in health;
It is given that with delight and tenderness they may know each other in Love.

It is given as the foundation of family life in which children may be born and Nurtured in accordance with God’s will, to his praise and glory.

In marriage a couple belong together and live life in the community;
It is a way of life created and hallowed by God, that all should honour.

Therefore we pray with them that, strengthened and guided by God,
They may continue to fulfil his purpose for their life together.

Readings and Sermon

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The Sermon                           

Renewal of Vows 
I invite you now to recall the vows that you made at your wedding.
(BOB and BETTY face each other and hold hands.)

The husband says:   I, BOB, took you, BETTY , to be my wife;

The wife says:   I, BETTY, took you, BOB, to be my husband;

The couple say together:

To have and to hold from that day forward,
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish,
‘Til death us do part, according to God’s holy law,
And this was our solemn vow.
Today, in the presence of our family and friends,
We affirm our continuing commitment to this vow.

The minister says to the congregation
Will you, the family and friends of BOB and BETTY, continue to support and uphold them in their marriage now and in the years to come?

We will.

Blessing of the Rings
Heavenly Father, source of everlasting love, revealed to us in Jesus Christ
And poured into our hearts through your Holy Spirit;
That love which many waters cannot quench, neither the floods drown;
That love which is patient and kind, enduring all things without end;
By your blessing, let these rings be to BOB and BETTY symbols to remind them Of the covenant made on their wedding day,
Through your grace in the love of your Son
And in the power of your Spirit.  Amen.

BETTY, I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage.
With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you,
And all that I have I share with you,
Within the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

BOB, I give you this ring as a sign of our marriage.
With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you,
And all that I have I share with you,
Within the love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Prayers (BOB and BETTY kneel together. )

God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit,
Bless, preserve and keep you;
The Lord mercifully grant you the riches of his grace
That you may please him both in body and soul,
And, living together in faith and love,
May receive the blessings of eternal life.  Amen.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we lift up our hearts to you
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him you have made a covenant of grace with your people
By the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.

We praise you for the gift of marriage in which the love of husband and wife Is brought together and reflects your plan of love for the world.

We thank you today for BOB and BETTY and for leading them to each other
In friendship and love, commitment and trust,
For bringing them here for the blessing of their marriage.
Now, by the presence of your Holy Spirit may they know the risen Christ to Be with them now as they celebrate this covenant together.
May their lives be a witness to your saving love in this troubled world.

As you pour out your love, may they grow together in your sight,
And each be to the other a companion in joy,
A comfort in sorrow and a strength in need.

We thank you for the gift of life that is children and ask for your blessing on BOB and BETTY. May they be a comfort and joy, support and strength to them In the years to come and all the days of their lives. Amen.

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
On earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
Now and for ever. Amen.

BOB and BETTY pray together
Heavenly Father,
We offer you our souls and bodies,
Our thoughts and words and deeds,
Our love for one another.
Unite our wills in your will,
That we may grow together
In love and peace all the days of our life;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Blessing
God the Holy Trinity make you strong in faith and love,
Defend you on every side, and guide you in truth and peace;
And the blessing of God Almighty,
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
Be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Exit  . . . .