Tuesday 29 November 2011

Free enterprise and the urban myth

I was so impressed by the story of a man who spent each and every day working as car park attendant at a tourist spot. Every day he was out there helping people park and taking their cash in exchange for a parking ticket. Everyone was impressed by his commitment to his job. No one could remember him missing a day during the years he'd been at the place.

Then one day he didn't turn up for work and they were a little concerned but by mid-morning when neither he, or a replacement, had arrived someone decided to give the Council a call. After being routed around the council offices they finally got the right person and explained the predicament. They needed someone to take the money and help with the parking and the usual man hadn't turned in.

"So why are you ringing us?" asked the official, "It's your car park!"

Don't you just love enterprising people and good tales?

Pity it's an urban myth (albeit a good one) - anyone got any others?


Dear God . .

± The fifty something, job gone, bills unpaid; A lifetime of work done, gone and forgotten - just a number.

± The homeless person living in a tent returning to find it, and most of its contents, gone.

± The mentally ill person, finally housed, but now captive within the four walls that should be home, support group and the company of peers gone, but is merely their unpadded cell.

± The 'worked since school' person who, by way of critical illness has seen their life effectively end. No longer able to work, no longer able to live as they were.

± The family and friends of the person who, despite 'suicide watch', took their life. The pain of loss, the feelings of inadequacy, the questions - who is to blame?

Monday done (00:45 Tuesday) and the list above is but five of the challenges presented to God!

At first glance these few, for few they are, people call out to one perhaps unknown and unwanted. If only God could act, could reach out and touch them they cry.

Well He did, and does and will do the same again today and every day - so as you sit and read this take a moment to pray for those you know of with needs, for those whose lives are changed by loss of job, by debt, illness (mental and physical) and by the actions of others. Pray that God will comfort those who mourn and touch (through us?) those who hurt; Add them to His list assured that they will be heard and answered.

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Bless you and Praise Him.

M1 Crash . .

Been hearing reports of tanker containing Marmite (23 tonnes of it) has rolled, spilling its load.

First time I've heard of Marmite and Jam in the same sentence - let's hope it doesn't spread!

Love it or hate it?

ps. reports say no one was injured which is a blessing :)

Monday 28 November 2011

The computer as a mirror

My foray into the issue of the unopenable Publisher has started me thinking about my own path along the world of computing starting back in the late seventies with a Commodore Pet, a majestic machine with 16k of memory and a screen 40 characters wide. This later grew to an 8032 (80 columns, 32k of memory) and a dual (5 1/4") disk drive, tractor-feed printer (yay, no more tapes) - a machine that lives in our garage and now and then awakes to play.

Life was exciting, I played games on my Apple ][e, which I filled with cards and added peripherals (my first FlightSim version!). CP/M and assembler ruled. This was the time when spreadsheets were new and exciting (3D too!) and the world expanded with the addition of a 300 Baud acoustic coupler. Life on the superhighway indeed!

Like any good addict life was taken away by Nascom computers (built them yourself - version 1 and 2), Z80 development kits (a week to program a ball bouncing on the screen all lost when plug removed!!! No storage!! The Osborne luggable (orange screen), the Dragon (6809 processor, mmmmm), the BBC (A & B - still a couple in the garage), the Radio Shark TRS-80 (trash eighty) and a host of other machines (never had Sinclair's ZX or Plectrum offerings)kept me sleepless and poor.

Then came the Apple Mac 512 and life was Gucci! Apache Strike, Zork (aah, Infocom - played them all), Larry and of course, FlightSim. MacWrite and Works made me productive when I wasn't being dissipated. I've probably owned most of the Apple products (some live in our garage) at some time and worked alongside those with some good DOS and windows machines (many of them) too! It's funny but my computing life has paid me (well), made me efficient and inefficient in equal measure. It's made me friends and cost me loads but I don't regret it (well perhaps the Trash 80).

I wonder if I have put in half as much time, energy, life, love or passion into my faith life?


Sunday 27 November 2011

Blinking Publisher

Why is it that so many of those who are engaged in sending out publicity, especially within diocesan and church settings, seem to always resort to the dinosaur-like relic that is Publisher?

Picture the scene, the busy dogcollar receives an email from the diocesan department of leg-waxing and nose-hair plucking (apologies if there is one) asking them to publicise their Saint Elizabeth (of Hungary) beauty event. Wanting to be a helpful sort the dogcollar send the poster to their printer only to be met with the dumb insolence version of 2001's Hal (i.e it can't even be bothered to tell you that it is sorry but it can't 'do that').

It only Windows wasn't in league with the devil a simple click would but bring up this dialogue box:

Why do diocesan staff (and a few others besides) persist so with this extremely naff programme? The only viewer/converter I have found cost money and I don't see why I have to pay for the privilege of using my ink, time and money to overcome something that the originator should have blinking well known (and I know they do because I have (very patiently) on a number of occasions told some of the persistent offenders about this problem). The bottom line is that there are NO plug-ins, viewers or any other means for dealing with a .pub file other than to have a copy.

This means that anyone in the 21st century probably not only hasn't got Publisher but doesn't even know what it was!

A polite request to all who would spend countless hours designing awful posters on an awful programme for me to not be able to even enjoy the laugh that seeing it might give me - STOP IT!

Some advice would be to distribute posters and the like in pdf or doc files but of course you can generate neither from Publisher so everyone would be better off if you used Word and exported the finished article as a pdf (doesn't need Word to open it) or as a Word document (.doc, which does require Word or open office0.

And a plea to stop wasting my precious time on sidetracks, detours and frustrations like this. We are supposed to be good at communicating, so why not give it a try?


Advent 1 - Out with the matthew and in with the Mark

Thank God for internet – it does all of Christmas!

It orders the stuff, sends the cards, plays the music – I’m free at last to let Argostide make it’s own way! And Advent? Trees in church, carols being sung and Church doing everything it can to make Christmas what it never was because 'Proper churches’, liturgically speaking, don’t do trees, carols and certainly don’t have Jesus in the crib until much nearer the 25th of December. The problem is that if we concentrate too much on Christmas we miss Advent, and that’s a great loss.

So here we are at Advent, the beginning of Year B (Mark to you), using the internet and ever we start with things apocalyptic and dark (yes children it’s all about Him ‘Coming again’) and we start with an old Isaiah who has returned from exile to find the city, the people and the temple (where it all began) in broken and disarrayed pieces. They hadn’t seen God at work for years and Isaiah is calling upon God to ‘do something’ – to be a visible not an invisible influence on and in their lives. "For you have hidden your face from us,” and (a little bit earlier) because God was hidden, he claims, “They sinned!” (So it's your fault then God?)

So what better time to remind us that Jesus comes to this earth as God made man because we asked Him to – to be visible because then we would not sin!

As we, like Isaiah, stand in the fragments, the rubble and detritus of our lives, isn’t this our prayer today also?

Does waiting, the absence of someone and yet the expectation make us better or worse Christians? The great light this same, but younger, Isaiah talks of in ch 9 (people in darkness have seen a great light) is what we look to the East and await, but does this mean we live in darkness, that we wait empty-handed? No – the light is in us and we are the lampstands (middle of the room, not under a bushel).

Which is handy because Paul, writing to the Corinthian church tells us:

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way - in all your speaking and in all your knowledge - because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."

We lack nothing that we need to be witnesses or to be ‘waiters’ – not at tables (but we should) but for His return! And how do we do this? By being engaged with the Word (written and living) and with the World because of this. We look for the signs, and boy there are times when I do, and we wait ready and expectant (foolish or wise virgin – which are you?). for the day will dawn when Marks words will be fulfilled:

“But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back - whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

A happy, blesséd and joyous Adventide

Saturday 26 November 2011

Making money from the poor

I have been told one of the most disgraceful stories relating to people with poor financial histories that I think I have ever heard.

Someone I know wanted to replace their car and so rang a car company to see if they had the make and model they were looking for. After being asked where they lived they were pointed to a company not that far from their home who dealt with people who had had a CCJ (County Cort Judgement) on their credit history.

When they arrived at the place the first thing they did was ask two questions, "Was the car on site still, and could they take a look at it. The answer was "Yes it is on site and 'No' they couldn't as they did things a bit differently and before customers got onto the car lot they did the paperwork first." So the customer was asked for the names and addresses of three people, not apparently as referees, but they needed to contact them before they could go any further (so what were they then?). The customer, having complained that they would first need to tell those named that their names had been given, was told that they would give them time to contact them before they called.

The salesperson then asked how much the customer could afford to which they replied, "How much is the car?" The response to this was to tell them that, "They didn't work that way and that they went on what the customer could afford as they 'pre-arranged' finance." So the customer put forward the sum of £150 only to be told that there was nothing within that price bracket available. So they upped the figure to £250 and were told that this would mean that there were cars. The customer pointed out that they only wanted one car, make and model and were told that there were many others to choose from.

So then the customer completed the paperwork and asked if they could see the car and this time the answer was "Yes". The salesperson left the room and returned with a couple of sheets of A4 paper upon each of which was a photograph of the desired vehicle (one from the front and the other the interior). When the customer asked where the car was they received the answer that it was, "Somewhere 'down South'!"

The customer then asked how much part-exchange they would get and said they'd go and take some photographs of their vehicle so that they could get a price. The salesperson said that they would need to conduct an inspection of the vehicle because they couldn't offer anything without seeing it. The customer said that the same applied to them and that they needed to see the prospective vehicle to which they were told that once they'd paid a (non-returnable) deposit the car would be brought to the site!

By now the customer was getting a little fed-up and had decided that they weren't going to do business with this company, but decided to ask what the APR for any finance on the vehicle would be. The figure quoted was 49.9%. When the customer said that this was excessive they were told that because of the CCJ this was the rate because, "It was helping them to rebuild their credit history!"

Now I am happy to name names (well, I will be after the OFT and some other agencies have been contacted regarding this firm) and I am disgusted that firms like this, which are no better than the loan sharks who populate the area in which I work, are seeking to rip people off in such a manner. Such companies as this are, I am sure, not an isolated case and reflect something very wrong in the world in which we live.

Thankfully the person left without getting into an argument or punitively-priced finance but how many others leave having sold their souls (and family finances) to companies like this?

A total disgrace :(

Church and the things that matter!

It is odd but as I work to become a recovering workaholic (I can stop doing stuff, I'm just a bit too busy to do it at the moment) I find my engagements bring me into contact with so many people who have their own list of what is important. The interesting thing is that the list varies wildly from person to person and every now and then I find a new, and sometimes odd, concern that I have never thought of.

This week, the three major concerns (in no particular order) have been:

Time off - met people who told me that I 'must' take time off for conferences, retreats, courses and the like. Apparently I'm not functioning well unless I do at least two from a list which included Spring Harvest, Soul Survivor, New Wine, Greenbelt, Leadership conferences, Alpha Conferences, retreats, day conferences and the like.

Numbers - The church is pretty obsessed by numbers and the issue of sustainability is high on the agenda of many with whom I engage in my missioner role. The problem is that we are concerned with how many BOPS (Bum On Pews) we have and not without good reason for one minister I spoke with was in a declining church and was desperate to make the 100 on a Sunday benchmark so that they could be a 'larger church', something they felt brought credibility and the potential for longevity.

Sadly, some of those I spoke to were moved towards church growth merely because they couldn't pay the parish share, sad because I thought that Matthew 28 should provide enough impetus on its own. in fact parish share and the spectre of a contracting church were the sword of Dan O'Cleese (sic!) that rendered impotence and energised in equal measure across my conversations.

Healthy Dogcollar or Healthy Church - the most interesting of all has to be this issue. Should the dogcollar be out there meeting people, winning the lost, standing with the broken and disposed and generally doing the stuff or should the dogcollar be more concerned with reading their Bible, building up themselves, going on retreats and generally being concerned with their own spiritual wellbeing at the expense of the church?

A few told me that what was most important was their own walk and that if this meant that the church took second place then so be it. A healthy, committed and Spirit-filled minister who took a day off each way to pray and read their Bible, took time to attend meetings that built them up and restricted evening engagements to but one a week was the primary goal, for it was first and foremost about them and their walk first.

Others told me that they were concerned with the church they were in and that this mean that they were called to support, guide and lead them. Putting themselves second and those they served first was apparently a recipe for a growing and healthy church but a sometimes tired and stretched dogcollar, but, they said, "Isn't this the calling? Aren't we supposed to take up our cross every day?"

Some insight into the things that others see important and some of the conversations this week. Interesting things because the work/life/spiritual balance is important (says he who often gets it wrong) and whilst we have a calling as Christian, there is also the calling as dogcollars and all that that brings to the party. What do you think I wonder?

One dogcollar told me that he knows more stressed than happy clergy and mentioned a few who he knew who had pulled stumps and gone of to 'something else'. A sad situation indeed :(


Friday 25 November 2011

Governed by Children - Elastic Money

Listening to R4 this morning I was entertained and enraged in equal measure as those who occupy the House of commons put on an early season pantomime.

We had the Conservatives looking all too fixated on the trade unions and whilst we know that Milliband (whom I liked more when he was working with Grommit*) and his party owe their position and much of their money to these bodies, it spoke greatly of something sinister lying beneath the surface.

Better still we had plans unveiled to put young people (NNETs) into some for f training or employment. There was talk of funding apprenticeships and it was all sounding rather familiar until the source of funding was pointed out - it will come, in part, from the young person's family's Tax Credits being 'squeezed' i.e. they won't rise with inflation with the effect that there a family member might have a job, albeit temporary, and the family will suffer for the privilege!.

Wow, at last we are seeing Biblical from the government in that those who have will be given even more and those who have less will see it taken away! When I said I wanted to see Biblical stuff associated with the running of our nation, this wasn't what I had in mind!!!

Turning over there was a trade union representative who was bleating about the fact that the government was illegal and undemocratic as they, "Didn't vote for them!". What a plonker, the reason we have a coalition is because no party received the mandate to form a government! (PR isn't the remedy to this situation either). As the unionist continued it transpired that what they meant was, "The government isn't a Labour government!" A blinking good thing when you see the mess they made of their time in office.

The very bestest bit came this morning when we were regaled with, yet another, way in which the money that a 'banker's tax' will be used to aid those less well off. This was the seventh use of the same pot thus far and it made me realise that perhaps the monetary assumptions made by our younger children might not be as flawed as we assumed. After all, one gets a tenner as a birthday present and for the next month they ask if they can have 'mmm'? When asked how they can pay for it, the same old tenner is mentioned. Seems Gorgeous george (Osborne), Calamitous Clegg and Camaeron (the calamitous twins?) are all using the same mathematics!

So where are the Christian voices being raised over this nation and the way it is being run (reading the Daily Fascist perhaps?) and the fact that I meet families whose children are NEET (Not in Education, Employment of Training by the way) because they have lost £20-30 a week EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance). I wonder how much of that sum is now paid in JobSeekers Allowance and what the monetary cost to this nation will be when we take into account those who will be untrained or uneducated such that they swell the ranks of the unemployed (and receiving benefits) in the years ahead. I deal with children who eat once a day because they receive free school meals (so what happens on an INSET day or in holidays?) and no one even flinches. Shameful!



Thursday 24 November 2011

OYLC - Issue the first: Poverty

I have been trying to find out what the exact aims and purposes of the OLSX people are. The more I have looked the more I struggle to find anything coherent for what we have is a bunch of people ranging from the intelligentsia through to the professional 'supporter/anarchist' all bringing stuff to the party. The problem is that this lack of a focussed and coherent position results in nothing more than a collection of disgruntled people who are doomed to be nothing more than just that.

Scanning various pages and talking to the ordinary people on the street I get the feeling that there is much dis-ease regarding the current situation facing our nation, Europe and the wider world. That noted, we must take care to ensure that we are looking at justice not revenge, for it appears that the majority (read and dialogued with) are generally seeking the latter.

So, this is an opportunity for the Church (universal) to get off of its behindside and take up the battle. There are so many areas to focus on and I think that we are best served, and serving, when we consider them intelligently and devise prayer and action relating to them, so let us begin with:

The increase of FoodBanks, repossessions, redundancies, loss of support for those in post-sixteen education (i.e. EMA) and so much more.

Some food for thought (and prayer)
The current Housholds Below Average Income* (HBAI) (after housing costs) survey tells us:

That 13.5M people in the UK (22%) are income poor and of these:

53% are in families which include at least one child;
32% are in families of people of working age without children;
15% are in pensioner families.

People living below the poverty line are distributed around the UK as follows:

England - 11,615,000 (23% of the population)
Scotland - 969,000 (19% of the population)
Wales - 667,000 (23% of the population0,
Northern Ireland - 374,000 (2% of the population)

The road to this situation includes:

Unemployment - Low wages - Inadequate benefits - Educational opportunities

Child Poverty Action group (CPAG) puts forward these proposals to work towards ending child poverty in the UK:

1. Protect jobs
2. Mend the safety net
3. Move away from means tests
4. Remove barriers to work
5. Stop in-work poverty
6. Put in place a child-first strategy for childcare
7. End the classroom divide
8. Provide fair public services for those who need them most
9. End poverty premiums in taxes and services
10. Ensure a decent home for every family

Just some foor for thought and some spur to developing something coherent (and I am pretty disgusted at just how many church members I have met during my journeys who take up the 'Daily Fascist' view that the poor generally get what they deserve. Thank God that isn't true with us and His standards!! But in case you might think this a graph to savour as you start writing prayers and think of how you can open doors, hearts and engage those outside over this topic:

The poor by economic status (2009/10)


* HBAI 2009/10 figures

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Occupy Your Local Church

This must be one of the greatest opportunities the Church has had for a very long time when it comes to engagement with the general public and bringing them through the doors of our buildings.

With slogans like:

"Want to Change our nation but don't like Camping - Occupy Your Local Church!"

"Think the Church should be standing against the Big Bonuses - OYLC"

where I am I am starting to engage people and use their anger against the perceived ills of the establishment to get them to think about what is happening and looking at ways to bring them in, hear their grievances and turn them into prayerful action. I am also going to see how I can bring our Credit Union in to the proceedings and see if there is potential to use this as a springboard sor social action and joined up responses for the UK, Europe and the World.

An opportunity that must not be allowed to be passed by (more tomorrow).

Tell your friends, colleagues, ministers (in fact, anyone who will listen) - let's be the difference!


Our nation - Time to start occupying buildings!

We live in a time when those who have get more and those who don't find what they have taken away or restricted.

We are potentially facing a double-dip recession and the financial outlook is gloomy as Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy all walk the tightrope with their economies.

The British public bails out banks and are called upon to cheer as bad business is retained whilst viable bits are sold to other bankers at a loss for us.

The social housing stock is much reduced and now we find the government wants to reduce it further by selling it to residents at knockdown prices and by funding their mortgages.

The government is set to cap the amount of benefits that families receive so that those who live in areas that are 'too expensive'. A move that has the potential of creating ghettoes of both well-off and poor.

All around me I see evidence of inequality, injustice, rewarding the wrong people and in doing so I see the gap between those who have and those who don't widening and the potential of a society where 'slum dogs' and the well off living separate lives in the same place.

The reality is that which Labour did to widen the gap is being continued with the coalition and the time has come to make a stand and show our support of a government that is fair, just and kind and this will only come about by the people of this nation rising up and occupying building. To this end I'm starting my own campaign.

+ It doesn't need tents.

+ It won't bring about injunctions and eviction orders.

+ It doesn't require allegiance to any political party.

+ It doesn't care about the Euro or a federal Europe.

Yes, it is time to rise up and occupy buildings and start making things change in our own lives, our workplaces, homes, towns, cities and nation.

Occupy Your Local Church - DO IT TODAY!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Middle Ground - A Guest writes:

I have passed the pen over to a guest writer regarding her document on 'Middle ground'. Everything from here on is her work and you are invited to comment as you wish once you have read the various elements (to assist, all mM words are in italics):

With respect to LGBT inclusion, a number of folks on the blogosphere seem to report sightings of the Middle Ground (non-affirming but non-condemning) so if this is not a mythical country, it may be closer than we think. What would it cost us to pay a visit, pitch a tent there, buy a semi?

Also, given that many of us are not seeking to challenge church teaching on sexuality, but are questioning church practice on inclusion, how might the discussion evolve to enable us all to make some progress on this?

The document 'The Middle Ground' (which you will find below) no doubt raises more questions than it provides answers but it does make an attempt at addressing some of the concerns people may have about making a move. Also, it's good to talk. And think. And pray. And let's just keep asking the questions....

Welcome to the Middle Ground
While the current debate on the place of same-sex relationships in our churches is ongoing, the Middle Ground (non-affirming but non-condemning) should seek to offer safe space and a welcoming environment to all people:
• straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered
• celibate, single, in a relationship, civil partnered, married
• church leadership, lay membership, fringe members, non-church affiliated
We welcome any feedback on the following guidelines:

Our prime objective is to serve God’s kingdom purposes, to see people come to faith, be impacted by his Spirit, be transformed into the likeness of his Son, and for each individual to find God’s plans and purposes for his/her own life.
In our church community, as far as possible, we will endeavour:
To seek love, justice, mercy, unity, opportunities to extend grace and reconciliation, God’s invitation to faith and a personal relationship, offered to all.
To shun condemnation, criticism, false pride, attempts to evoke in others guilt, shame, fear, diminished self-esteem or alienation from God.
We acknowledge that we are all a work in progress and that the transformative power of the Holy Spirit is ongoing in each of us. We all have areas of difficulty, some quite personal, painful and private. We respect each other’s feelings, bear with each other’s failings and take seriously issues of mutual accountability and confidentiality.
With respect to Bible study and interpretation:
We will seek to widen our reading (looking at a range of theological writers rather than only those who support our current viewpoint) and we will seek to deepen our understanding, prayerfully seeking God’s revelation through our study.
We will seek unity in our fellowships and make every effort to keep the bond of peace. We pray for the Holy Spirit to highlight areas of weakness, criticism and self-sabotage and we will deal with these promptly, prayerfully and with humility.
We seek to be a community that models a non-ageist, non-sexist, non-racist environment in order that all our members may grow and flourish regardless of age, gender or race. We also take pains to eradicate a homophobic atmosphere, challenging prejudice and discrimination where they arise.
We acknowledge that for many of us, living in the Middle Ground is not stress-free. We will implement strategies to deal with this stress in exactly the same manner and with similar resources that we would use to manage heightened levels of stress created by our family lives, workplaces and neighbourhoods.
Where necessary we will seek help from others within the church or from other organisations to manage our personal levels of stress in order to avoid resorting to a fight-or-flight response, making a scapegoat of other church members, or undermining and being critical of church leadership.
Where differences of opinion (on issues of sexuality but also on any other issue) lead to relationship difficulties we will seek appropriate conflict resolution strategies (allowing some breathing space, open dialogue, and mutual listening). Where necessary, an impartial facilitator may be helpful in resolving conflict and working towards reconciliation.
We honour our commitment to our church communities, understanding that it is often through times of challenge that we may see the most growth in our own and in our church’s journeys of faith. We will commit to those churches that we believe God has called us to, ‘for better or for worse’, seeking God’s leading through particularly testing times.
We are thankful for the positive and supportive relationships we develop in our churches and we seek to be part of that network of support and encouragement.
We anticipate that our children (aged 4-11) will, at times, have questions regarding same-sex relationships and transgender issues. We will pre-empt our children’s questions as far as possible, having given consideration to age-appropriate explanations.
We will have entered into consultation with parents of children in this age group and arrived at some consensus on these responses, so that the children in our church may receive a consistent message from all its members.
We will be open to the process of change and development in our own church and seek to learn and grow from new experiences. We will be open to the possibility of sharing and learning from the experiences of other churches throughout our denomination and in our local area.
Where individuals still maintain a traditional viewpoint on homosexuality, it is to be hoped that they will nonetheless see the Middle Ground ethos as a Biblical response to our changing cultural situation.
We anticipate that our young people (aged 12-17) will, at times, have questions regarding same-sex relationships and transgender issues and will already be developing their own opinions. For some of our young people these will be quite personal issues.
We will seek to be supportive and non-directive and to that end, will be willing to reflect upon and discuss the multiplicity of approaches and responses currently operating within our churches.
Where appropriate, we will advise on further exploration of these issues via specific internet websites and other materials. Where requested, we will offer prayer support, counselling or mentoring.
We will speak of other church denominations with respect, avoiding the temptation to hold them in contempt for either (in our view) progressing too far or not progressing fast enough. Other church denominations are still ‘part of the body’, containing members who are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and who are similarly making sense of the tension in this unchartered territory.
We acknowledge the unusual circumstances that we currently find ourselves living through and we will ‘cut each other some slack’ as we make our ongoing journey.
Our hope is that many of us will view the Middle Ground as an adventure in faith, an ongoing opportunity to deepen spiritual maturity, to develop Christ-likeness and to partner with God in furthering his plans and purposes. We acknowledge that without God’s help, we will undoubtedly struggle, but with his help we will be encouraged, enriched and empowered to live out the Gospel message to all people in our community.

I was hoping to discuss each of these and put forward my own views but I have realised that there are some who make this impossible and so merely leave you with Jane's document above. If you wish to comment on any of them I am sure she will be happy to read them - just post them on the comments page.


George Osborne - Guilty of fiduciary mismanagement?

I'm sorry to potentially upset those who might think that George Osborne is a safe pair of hands at the helm of UK plc's financial dealings but following the sale of Northern Rock to Northern Rock to Virgin Money for £747m I have to say that this is past 'Virgin on the ridiculous' it is downright blesséd criminal (or perhaps, to do him a favour, merely totally incompetent!)!

We are seeing members of the armed forces facing redundancy should they be silly enough to find themselves wounded in combat. We have libraries closing as Councils cut back their spending (CCTV in cabs excepted of course)! The number of young people without employment and the rising number of NEETs (post 16 Not in Education, Employment or Training) all add up to make one concerned and to crown all things there must be . . . .

Let's do the sums and see?

Northern Rock has cost the British Taxpayer something in the region of 1,400,000,000.

The Company was then split into two: Northern Rock plc and Northern Rock (Asset Management), the former being the 'good' business and the later being used as a receptacle for the 'bad' debt.

The company has shed some 3,000 staff (many of whom are probably now are receiving benefits)

And we sell it to one Of that nice Mr Branson's companies for £747,000,000

1,400,00,00 - 747,000,000 = £653,000,000 (it could be less, but it couldn't be worse!)

Northern Rock (Asset Management) is a black hole that accounts for c.£21,000,000,000 (but rest assured, we are not going to sell that to anyone - it's all ours!!!).

There is a bright side in that there potential for another £150,000 and then (possibly) another £50,000,000 and if Virgin sell the business on or relist it on the Stock Market within a five year period there could be another £50,000,000.

So, if they make money out of it, and one has to ask, "How could they fail, they have the good business," we might see another £250,000,000 in all.

Back to the abacus and we find a minimum loss of £403,000,000 (and we still have the Asset bit)!!

I just love Virgin Money's Chief executives view of it all, "We think we have made a great offer!"

It certainly is, but for whom?

The disabled in Birmingham who were to have their care cut to fund cuts?

Those whose library (and related services) are, or have been earmarked, to be cut?

Those local government workers who will find themselves unemployed (and paid by us through increased benefits)?

I'm sure you can add to this list (you are welcome to) and on a week when protesters have been told to move from St PAul's Cathedral I can but applaud the timing and the demonstration of just who benefits from the way our society, nation and the government operates. If anything was designed to see people take up the protester's cause, it is surely this.

Well done Mr Osborne!!!

Now what's this week's OT Lectionary reading about 'fat' sheep????

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Taxi Conversations and Free Choice

Somewhere in the world it has to be April the First if the news item which referred to the potential for Oxford's taxi passengers being videoed and their conversations recorded are true!

Apparently the footage, which is encrypted to prevent unauthorised monitoring, will be kept for a twenty-eight day period and then erased as part of a move to protect the cab drivers. Of course the recording will also be useful should a cab break the law as there will be footage available to the police should they require evidence in that direction too!

The move is part of a means of resolving the many incidents involving cabs where it comes down to being one person's word against another and the 'hard' evidence will enable them to settle the issues quickly and efficiently. Let's hope so because it's going to to cost the ratepayers something like a quarter of a million (now that's surely money well-spent in a time of council staffing and service cuts. How many libraries os that?)!
Well done Oxford City Council (for I assume it is them to applaud) a Golgafrincham award is all yours (or to quote Doglas Adams, "You're a load of useless, bloody loonies!").

Hey ho - whatever next

Smoking, Driving and Free Choice

Just listened to an interesting interview regarding the BMA wanting smoking in cars to be banned. Regardless of the differing viewpoints I find it most bizarre that the Doctors might think that the Police could stop people smoking when they can't even enforce the ban on driving and using a mobile 'phone (well not if my journey yesterday along the M42 and my various forays to the Crem' and back are anything to go by)!

Logistics aside, I was stunned to hear how one one side the ban was designed to protect children and on the other how this was a further erosion of civil liberties and heralded the next stage towards something that would see smokers emerge as pariahs (thought they were already!) who were not even free to smoke in the privacy of their own homes.

An extension of the Nanny State? Remembering back to the Bliar days when we had calls for sharp knives to be removed from homes in a bid to reduce injuries through domestic violence and more recently the group advocating 'food wardens' who would have the right to examine larders and 'fridges as part of ensuring that the levels of obesity are reduced it beggars the question, where next?

Rationing chocolate by weight of the customer - the higher the BMI the less you can buy?

Limiting the number of times you can buy convenience food - no more hippy meals for you?

Compulsory fitness classes for the overweight and underfit?

Where would you establish a Nanny State limitation or response I wonder?


Tuesday 15 November 2011

Middle Ground - Unity

I encounter a great many problems with 'unity' when it comes to homosexuality and so the point for discussion (by posted comments perhaps rather than emails, although they are welcome) is:

"We will seek unity in our fellowships and make every effort to keep the bond of peace. We pray for the Holy Spirit to highlight areas of weakness, criticism and self-sabotage and we will deal with these promptly, prayerfully and with humility."

Before I try to post my position I think it might be helpful to consider the many positions (not definitive, just a quick splurge off the top of my head) that assault me with regard to 'unity' (and I have many - but mustn't digress) with regard to this topic:

Don't Tell Me
I struggle with those who are happy to fellowship with anyone as long as they know nothing about them or their situation. 'Don't tell' is such a hypocritical place to reside for it permits people to do whatever they like as long as no one finds out! What this means is that they are not happy to fellowship and worse still are happy to permit whatever it is that they don't know as long as they don't know.

The Defining Sin
In many areas, not just the one 'middle ground' is concerned with, there are people who wish to portray an act, theology, lifestyle or attitude as being in possession of, or making incarnate, the 'defining sin'. For some this is being homosexual, for others it is not being homosexual (the sad attitude that considers heterosexuality to be in some way homophobic). What is strange that in every encounter that I can recall with the 'defining sin' brigade they are always more concerned (of gleefully) with the sin of those they condemn than they are with their own shortcomings and double-standards.

Let Me Tell You Everything
The wonderful people who push whatever it is into the light to confront those who they consider oppose their lifestyle choices. The problem is that if one wants to make an issue of something then they really shouldn't be uptight when it becomes an issue! Not only that but it brings about a nasty knee-jerk reaction from the 'don't tell' types and so the battle is really engaged - but peace is never sued for.

Let's All Just Be Happy!
This is the one that drives me bonkers in that I am told that we just need to be happy! One person recently told me that we, "Need to put down our old attitudes and silly divisions that the Bible causes and just love everyone and have a church that is happy!" My problem is that happiness and obedience are two words that go together (obedience begets happiness and vv) and that to assume we can remove the hallmarks of orthodoxy, Stand upon 'The Truth' or revise what the Bible says to support a view so that both sides can condemn others (as so many 'orthodox' and 'liberals' do - there is no monopoly held here by either side it seems) is bonkers.

We should all be happy and this happiness comes from relationship with God through Christ; Through seeing the image of the invisible God made visible in the form of a brother or sister (and that's regardless of who they are, what they think, what they believe or how they live - with the caveat that there are times when we need also to 'restore gently' those who we see caught up in sin).

That'll do for now (there are more but tea is drunk, office is said and 09:00 is fast approaching) and so my views:

We must always seek to live as Church (universal) in a place of peace and concord and this means that we can't expel some without first looking at the beam in our own eyes or without seeing, and acknowledging, the places that we fall short. Unity is not being silent about differences and is not served by the trite utterance of those awful words, "Let's just agree to differ!"

In John 17: 20-23, we find the words:

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Unity is essential if we are to take the Gospel out into the world and have them believe that Jesus is the Christ. Our unity is essential for those who do not believe, it is the remedy for ALL the world's ills and is the path by which others will come.

Unity only works if we are honest with one another. Whatever the relationship, dishonesty undermines and destroys it and Church is no different. The problem here is that pointing out that one doesn't share a viewpoint, doesn't choose to act in a certain way or believe what another believes is so often taken by the other party as a criticism and this is not always because of the way the difference is stated. We need to state our differences in love and look to dialogue and understand where the bumps in the road to peaceful living might be. It could be that some parts of the road just need to be subject to a detour or cones off, but this is the last resort.

Unity is not sitting in a room being shouted at or abused in the hope that eventually the other party will capitulate and surrender (seen that on both sides of the homosexuality 'debate') and neither will it come from the assigning of labels and attempts at humiliating or engaging in the game of 'ad hominem' to defeat the other party. It will not come from dialogue where one party shouts and then sticks their fingers in their ears whilst the other side has a turn (which is pretty much my experience I'm sad to say!).

Unity is reading the Word with the hermeneutic firmly fixed, understanding the context and bringing it with you to the writings of other, not always comfortable or agreed with, authors (best kind - not much fun reading stuff you agree with!). It is taking this and trying rationally to work within our own experience, feelings and situation with love always a forethought and obedience always our guide.

That's what unity is (phone call says 09:15 pick up - so have enjoyed an extra few minutes - hope you will!).

And me? I'm flawed, fallen and struggle with my daily walk on a daily basis. I can do nothing without looking to the grace of God and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit as I try to live out the life won for me by Christ on the Cross.

I pray that this is the same of others and that we will, in unity come to that great day when Christ returns and takes us home to be His Bride - spotless and without blemish or separation.


Monday 14 November 2011

Oh no - white poppies and more bilge!

I was thinking that perhaps this year the annual reiteration of the 'white poppy, they died in vain' tosh that Jonathan Bratley trawls out at remembrancetide might not be on the menu, but as echurch points out, I was wrong!

From the white poppy, because the red poppy is a political symbol and a statement of national pride through to the same old, same old tosh about 'dying in vain' this man continues to peddle his wares and sadly does this as a Christian, which (as I found yesterday from others who mentioned the bloke) does less, and says the wrong things, about Christians and Christ! Still at least he left bomber command alone (didn't he?)!

I am happy for the man to say stuff, just a shame it appears to be more about his pacifistic, and apparently humanist, views than about Christ or Christian viewpoints at so many levels (and on so many issues). Still, let's get a few things straight:

Remembrance does not glorify war.

Remembrance is not blind to the loss of life and the amazing ability that one has in war to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Remembrance does not gloss over the futility of war but prays for peace and remembers those who went. It honours those, often scared, ordinary people, who pulled off some extremely courageous acts (including climbing into the aircraft of Bomber Command and setting sail across an Ocean where death lurked beneath the surface).

The poppy derives its existence from the battlefields of the 1914-18 conflict, it is not a political image, neither is it a jingositic icon - it is a reminder of those who served, and died, in conflicts near, past and present.

Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other theatres of conflict were (and still are) about peace, they were about freedom. Because it wasn't explicitly Mr B's freedom (or mine as I've never lived in Northern Ireland) does not remove the reality that freedom was an issue. Of course, perhaps we should concede points and rights to those who wish to act wrongly so that Bratley can keep his pacifistic hands clean. Guess as long as it isn't in his backyard he'll be happy for that and will continue to speak as he (yawn) does because he's has the right to do so - a right that was won by people who served (and flew bombers too!).

For those who I know who have been offended by the man's words I would like to apologise and point out that he speaks merely for himself and does not represent the mainstream Christian view as I understand it (thank the Lord!).


Saturday 12 November 2011

Privileged Clergy, pressurised Parishoners

Returning to the issue of 'finance and the Church', time to respond to the comments made in the first-placed observation, namely:

"The clergy live in their privileged and comfortable lives whilst demanding that their poor and disadvantaged congregations pay for the privilege in the money the are pressured to give!"

Assuming that the 'privilege' is meant in some way to be monetary, for it fits with the general tone of the comment my first observation has to be that if they are then they're either doing it from private means as where I find myself the six of us work hard to keep our heads above water, especially with the current recession, rises in energy, fuel and just about every other cost! I realise that having six of us in a household is perhaps not the norm but it is for us.

As for, "demanding that their poor give!" Working in an Urban Priority Area I have to say that generally all of the those within the area we serve might well be considered poor with respect to many parts of the country (for 'poor' is surely a comparative) and even with in our own town we most definitely serve the 'have nots'. As for pressurising the congregations, I would have to say that generally, as a breed, clergy still tend not to lean on people to pay a tithe (which is actually the minimum of course) and yet there is this misconception amongst those outs, and I have to assume that the author of this comment was not a church member, that we are always out there with our begging bowls!

Where I am, and I cannot speak for others, our church building is used by the community without charge. Groups and individuals come and make use of our facilities and services and the answer is always the same, for Church (the people of God) should be paying for their buildings and the heating, lighting and whatever where it can and where it can't, if there is good reason for this (and I would have to say being a truly missionary church is pretty much the only caveat here) it should be supported by the other churches around it (i.e. at diocesan level or nationally). Now we get loads of flak from some because we don't charge, especially those who do charge for EVERYTHING and see us undercutting them (rather than ministering to the needs of those around us) and those who moan because of the difficulty we have in paying Parish Share (claiming we should charge for everything and pass the plate around at every opportunity), but that's life I guess.

Oddly though, the same people who complain that we charge for nothing are the very same people who get envious about the fact that we've decorated, installed central heating (where we had storage heaters), got new chairs, fitted a new kitchen (with dishwasher and double-ove, eight burner oven) and more besides - at no cost to the church (yep, all donated - even the plumber came and offered his services free!). God calls us to scatter our bread on the water - well we do and God has proved himself time and time again to be no man's debtor!

But clergy are indeed 'privileged' for the the calling that we have responded to is something that is a reward in itself but it's not financial. We might not be 'comfortable' but, generally speaking, we have dinner (and often lunch too) at home and are not subject to the pressures of working for someone else, for we set our own workloads and tasks for much of our working week. Now that is a privilege, but perhaps one that should see us offer to exchange places with people in the 'real' world of work or do a day with church members every now and then to keep the experience real. That said, we have but a very small number who are working and so, for me, this would be a bit difficult!

Those who are Church are also privileged and we all, for we are all 'Laos' (i.e. Church, God's people) should be paying sacrificially but from the outpouring of our hearts with gratitude and never because we are pressured by another.

Church should work at people seeing what they get for free and yet to do this without claims of exhibiting pride or generating envy on the part of others is something I just don't know how to do. So we do the stuff, live the life, house the homeless, feed the hungry and minister to the broken. The rest is up to God!


Friday 11 November 2011

It's the soldier . . .

It's the soldier, not the reporter who has given us Freedom of the Press.

It's the soldier, not the poet, who has given us Freedom of Speech.

It's the soldier, not the militant who knows his rights, who has given us the Freedom to Demonstrate.

It's the soldier, not the lawyer, who has given us the Right to a Fair Trial.

It's the soldier who salutes the flag, serves under the flag and whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who gives the protestor the right to burn that same flag.

Remembrance - Never in vain

Every year around Remembrancetide the same old sad people trot out their, "Why not tell people their sons died for nothing," cobblers. They witter on about how awful bomber command were and take pleasure in the fact that they have never received recognition for the fact they took to the air and put their lives on the line in pursuit of peace (and in obedience to orders).

Well, here we are 11/11/11 and at 11:00 I will be gathered with many others to pay our respects to all who have served in wars and conflicts throughout the world and will be thanking those who have died in the pursuit of peace, the same peace that lets some drone on in the way I have outlined above, and yes, even to burn poppies (but don't be surprised is someone takes offence!). The reality is that when one nation seeks to subsume another into its nation, or remove a people group, or act against others in ways that are wrong and where the art of politics fails, it is to the men and women of our armed forces that we look for a remedy.

War is never glorious - and that is not the message of Armistice Day or Remembrance Sunday - but the fact that scared people go and do heroic things, overcome fear to make a stand and do what is right (in a right way), then these people deserve to be paid their due respect and thanked.

In the words of the Kohima epitaph:

For our tomorrow, they gave their today"

So let us pay homage to them and live well in that truth!


Thursday 10 November 2011

Down with money - send the Gas Company a Chicken!

Having had my rant over the CofE selling its possessions, let us move on to the second placed suggestion:

"The 'Church' should oppose all financial dealings and seek a return to an equitable world where people traded and lived by bartering and sharing resources and skills - like we used to!"

Well, this is an interesting comment to attempt to respond to because first and foremost I think it joins ranks with those who see standing on the prow of an unsinkable ship (which is about to sink!) and those who see Celtic Christianity as thinks of romantic beauty. The wonderful world of everything was much betterer then when it really obviously wasn't! Not only that but I don't think the world was equitable, fair or a very nice place when people bartered their skills for food, drink, medicine or homes.

I think there is some great confusion regarding matters financial and the day-to-day exchange of money for food, drink, clothes, housing and the like is something that will always be with us. Bartering is merely a changing of the currency and to be frank, many who propose this as a way of living would find themselves quite badly off because they have little to bring to the party. Those who would prosper under this scheme of life would do so to the extent that they swapped the excess produce and possessions they'd accrued by providing their skills that they would, within that setting, have become 'wealthy' and this is the root issue for so many I've met who support bartering.

For many this is an issue of wealth and the divide between the 'haves' and 'have nots' and looking at history - the poor (and inadequate) fared much less well when this was the order of the day. Of course the Bible tells us that, "The workman is worthy of his wage," and further instructs us to ensure that those who labour receive the benefits of that labour for we, "Do not muzzle the ox that treads the grain." (i.e. if you do the stuff you reap the benefits. The problem also comes when you get too old or are to ill to do stuff, for who will provide you with the necessities of life because you've been non-productive? Only a welfare state will do this and of course to do this there needs to be taxation (or insurance) present to provide.

What I think is really meant here is that we should deal with those who make money by losing money for their customers and then make money again by selling the stocks that lost the money for less money again! The wonderful world of commission and the dodgy world of insider dealing, big bonuses and the like are what is really being spoken of here. The demand from investors that their dividend yields and the profits of the companies in whom they invest coupled with the increasingly large salaries 9and benefits) of the people at the top (IDS - 50% increase over the past year - immoral, not even close - it's much worse than immoral!).

I think the issue is that we have different rules and standards for the ordinary person, the rich, the financial types and those in power and this, the Bible tells us (Deuteronomy 25) is wrong:

"You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you."

The problem is that the regulators failed to regulate, the government failed to govern fairly and without favour or concession to certain people whilst oppressing (for it is oppression) others. There were (and are) different weights in use and our government and those who regulate them all stand condemned and guilty as they show favour towards those who seek great returns for doing nothing and expect others to pay for their privilege. In doing so they, all, defy Deuteronomy 10:

"For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing."

No thanks, forget bartering and pay in good old fashion pound notes but stand and shout for those who oppress the poor, who raise the cost of living, see services cut to fund their excesses but do not pay, brought to book - and brought to live as The Book and its author commands. But the answer lies in prayer, prayerful dialogue and sticking to that which God commands, not disobedience and anarchy for these are the fruits of him against whom we contend.


Remembering them - "We did our best!"

Yesterday afternoon we crowded some forty-two infants into our little church building for a remembrance assembly. During this we talked about poppies and poems, battlefields and the various elements, explaining where they come from and why we do them.

When we got to the words of the Binyon poem, "We will remember them," and went into the bugle calls and a minute's silence, the children were amazing - they stood perfectly still and quiet throughout (well, as still and quiet any five or six year old can). At the end, when I told them how impressed I had been with them and their behaviour, questions, answers and, most of all, how they did the silence, one of them piped up, "Well, we did the best we could!"

What more could those who have gone before ask for?

Flt Lt Sean 'Enid' Cunningham - RIP

Mourning the sad loss of another Red Arrows pilot, Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, which coming so close to the death of Jon egging makes for one of the worst years the Arrows have had for some time.

Prayers for the team, his colleagues and especially his parents and friends.

Dona eis requiem

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Remembrance - Vicar VCs - Hardy

Theodore Bayley Hardy is one of my heros, the other being someone you will hear about later, and is reckoned to have held the most decorations (medals, not Christmas lights!) of any non-combatant who has served with the British forces.

Born in Southernhay on October 20th 1863 Hardy was educated at the City of London School and did a BA at London University and at the age of twenty-six was ordained deacon in Southwell diocese. After various posts we find Hardy ministering in Cumbria (Hutton Roof) as the war began but because of his age found his appeals to be used in military chaplaincy turned down. He persisted and eventually those in command allowed him to join and so, at the age of fifty-three found himself as chaplain at Etaples, a large training camp with a military hospital attached.

Age and health had conspired to prevent him joining but once the opposition was overcome and in post at Etaples he started pushing for a post at the front and so, in December 1916, he found himself as chaplain to the 8th Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment in the Vieille Chapelle district. Hardy proved to be popular because he had fought to be with the men on the front and would often be found moving among the men bringing support, advice and prayers (he also, like chaplains today brought a supply of cigarettes, sweets and other good stuff!) through the long nights and in the quieter times between combat. 1917 saw Hardy engaged in the Summer campaign which was has at its pinnacle one of the bywords of the First World War, Passchendaele. It was during this that Hardy was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his actions in the field, the citation reads thus:,

"For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. He went out into the open to help bring in wounded. On discovering a man buried in mud whom it was impossible to extricate he remained under fire ministering to his spiritual and bodily comforts until the man died".

A few weeks later (October) Hardy was decorated again, this time with the Military Cross, for:

"Repeatedly going out under heavy fire to help the stretcher bearers during an attack."

Spring 1918 saw Hardy on the old Somme battlefield. In April 1918, on three separate occasions (5th, 25th and 27th), Hardy carried out acts of selfless courage for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On the 5th occasion he followed a patrol who had gone to attack an enemy post in a ruined village. Coming across an badly wounded officer from the patrol Hardy stayed with him, even though they were under fire, until he could get help to bring him back to a place of safety.

On the 25th, having been shelled, Hardy went out and dug two wounded men out of the rubble, whilst under direct fire, saving one and sadly losing the other.

The 27th saw the final acts of courage for which Hardy received his VC when having been pushed back, Hardy was the last man out of a wood in which that had been and as they moved up the line, he persuaded a sergeant to return and bring out a wounded man - which they did, even though they were, once again, under direct fire.

When told he had been put forward for a VC, Hardy's response was one of protest but this was to no avail and on the 18th July 1918 he was gazetted and awarded on the 9th August. The King was so impressed Hardy that he appointed him his chaplain but Hardy refused and stayed with 'his boys' - which is where he was when killed, at the age of fifty-five, by machine gun fire on the 10th October - just a few weeks short of the Armistice!

Hardy was buried at St Sever cemetery in Rouen - in a letter to Hardy's family, Colonel Hitch (8th Lincolns) wrote:

"What his loss meant to us is more than I can express, but his name will always be recalled with reverence and to those of us who knew him intimately. A great blank has appeared in our daily lives, though thank God we shall meet him again under happier surroundings".

The King wrote to Hardy's daughter, Mary:

"The King is deeply grieved to hear of the death from wounds of your dear father whose bravery and self sacrifice had won for him the love and respect of all who served with him. His Majesty heartily sympathises with you and yours in your sorrow."

Hardy's VC is on display at the Royal Army Chaplains Department museum, Aport House, Surrey.

I take great encouragement and pride in this man and his deeds - a model for those who follow in his footsteps.

Church Maintenance Made Simple

Just doesn't get any simpler than this, does it?

The CofE should sell everything . . . .

As promised (need to return to 'Middle Ground' too!) here's the first of the 'terrible three' suggestions/comments regarding St Paul's, the bankers (not a euphemism, honest!) and the CofE.

The CofE should sell all of its property, paintings and investments and give them to the poor!

There are a few points that need to be considered here:

Point the first
There are many places where the CofE is to be found that wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the money that the Church Commissioners put into the diocese in which they exist. The diocese I live in benefits greatly from such generosity and if there were no assets from which to make money where would this money come from? From the pockets of those who encourage the church to sell? Nah, didn't think so!

People have to realise that much of what they expect to be done by 'Church' is funded by 'Church' and as much as they have expectations, they have neither financial support nor membership in their minds when they speak out!

Point the second
Many of the those assets were gifts. If we were to relinquish them then, like designated offerings, the money realised has to be used for the purpose for which the gift was given or perhaps, as with the armed forces, it would be right to offer them back to the donor or one of their successors rather than sell them. Either way, the question has to be that when assets as a source of funding have been removed, where is the funding going to come from?

Point the third
'The poor' - who are they because it seems to me that 'the poor' are an abstract group who are dragged out for the purpose of making a point yet despised for actually having the temerity to exist.

The homeless poor and the question, "Why are they homeless?" always seems to end in the judgment that they are the victims of their own folly most of the time. Of course this isn't true and there are a great many deserving homeless out there in need of a council who does what is both moral and right and a social/psychiatric care service that works for rather than looks to find an exeat when it comes to involvement.

Those who have 'opted' out and are living 'alternative (some would say 'anarchistic') lives outside of the constraints of 'working for the man' and being 'part of the system'. Ironically though, most of those I've met find themselves engaged in presenting themselves as 'supporters' and events like Dale Farm, motorway or by-pass construction sites, animal something or other (and we should include foxy something or others too I suppose!) and protests in towns and cities (regardless of the issue!).

It's perhaps ironic that just about every one of those who fit this category are totally against 'the man' and yet wail and rant if their benefits aren't forthcoming. All the benefits and none of the responsibility perhaps sums these up best. The problem is that these cloud the perceptions and attitudes of many against all 'the poor' because they are merely scroungers who need a bath and a job!

The poor who smoke, drink and have a great life who probably do exist but are very much a minority (in my experience). I do know some on the poverty line who will buy their cigarettes, lottery ticket and alcohol before their kids get fed! but these are very much in the minority and my experience is that they will eat less (or less often) to ensure their kids are cared for)! For the Daily Mail readers among us we can include 'single parents' here too!

The 'genuine' poor who struggle because of disability, joblessness through redundancy, closures, the recessions and circumstance. Those who not that long ago were homeowners, tax payers and productive members of society. Those who were 'haves' and now find themselves having paid into the system, paid the game and yet are stuffed (Consider the demise of EMA and the kids who can't afford to do 'A' levels because this government has devised a 'better' system i.e. just don't pay it!) as we make reductions that act against the middle class (somewhat) and the poorer (a great deal).

Is it any wonder that ordinary people want to see the banker's and those who work in the 'fat cat', excess-ridden, 'all the profits and benefits but no accountability' world of stocks and shared stuffed? Is it ant wonder that people want to camp outside St Paul's and voice their outrage that the general public are paying with their homes, jobs and children's futures to bail out banks whilst the very people who caused the problem i.e. the financial sector and the regulatory bodies and the spendthrift Labour government (remember them - the same people who sanctimoniously spout against all as if they were never there?) who fiddled and PFI'd our nation's wellbeing away.
Shhh Vicar - they'll realise they're paying bank charges too!

Well, for those who want to take a pop at the good old CofE, here's a bit of news - we are out there doing as we always have, supporting the poor, the dispossessed, the homeless, the abused and the voiceless and rather than keep droning on about 'all the wealth' why don't you put your criticism where it belongs and get as engaged as we are (or at least take it to those who are guilty i.e. the politicians, regulators and bankers)?

The CofE is engaged with the genuine, the foolhardy, the addicted and the alien (other countries, not extra-terrestrial) members of society. It offers support and comfort to all, regardless of race, creed or colour (we'd even help a banker!!!) and it does this through the generosity and commitment of it's members, the money it makes through its investments (which I understand could have been done a lot better for a long time - but that's for another day and for someone who knows this stuff. Anyone want to write a page on it here?) and the stuff it owns.

So - in short (after a very long!) - keep on owning, investing (properly and ethically) and making money where you legitimately can Church Commissioners because we need all the money you can generate, for our members are cash-strapped and giving until they bleed to be Church and do the work of the Christian in our society. And for you who want to see the CofE sell everything, put your money where your mouth is and send Rowan your standing order forms and when they equal what comes in from investments there will be a reason to sell everything (they won't be needed!).

The ball's in your court (but I won't hold my breath!).


ps. What an enjoyable rant - feel so much better now :-)

Living in the lack of luxury?

I was stunned by the effects of prejudice and ignorance (of the not knowing kind) which combined on various of the radio broadcasts relating to 'the church, the bankers, OLSX and St Paul's Cathedral'.

Some had me laughing at their absurdity, some had me appalled at their lack of logic whilst, far too many, had me railing as people displayed their ignorance. The top three, in reverse order, in my opinion were:

3. The CofE should sell all of its property, paintings and investments and give them to the poor!

A superb idea, but of course this begets the questions, "Who are the poor and are some more worthwhile, needy, deserving than others?" A

2. The 'Church' should oppose all financial dealings and seek a return to an equitable world where people traded and lived by bartering and sharing resources and skills - like we used to!!

But rather than get a chicken for a day's work we get a Qeen Elizabeth II drinking voucher - money and financial transactions (like paying for your food?) is an essential act. Changing a fiver for a handful of tomatoes is just changing the currency; isn't it?

1. The clergy live in their privileged and comfortable lives whilst demanding that their poor and disadvantaged congregations pay for the privilege in the money the are pressured to give!

Wrong on so many levels and certainly not my experience on any of the points made here. Kids go to local state schools, can't afford holidays abroad and live an adequate, but not always easy, life with our children. Have never pressurised people to give and see in the words above something that is wrong at many levels.

Will discuss these points further - but hopefully some stimulation and food for thought.


Tuesday 8 November 2011

Remembrance - Vicar VCs - Mellish

The Reverend (Captain) Edward Noel Mellish VC, MC.

Born on Christmas Eve in Barnet, North London, 1880 Padre Mellish was the first army chaplain to be awarded the VC.

After being educated at Saffron Walden Grammar School, Mellish became a member of the Artists Rifles (whose church stands opposite the Old Bailey) as saw service in South Africa where he served with distinction. After a period back in England Mellish returned to South Africa and work in the diamond mines. It was there Mellish's calling to ordination became real and after helping in the local Christian witness he returned to London, studied at King's College was ordained (1912) and served his title at St Paul's, Deptford. Like Baden Powell, with whom he had served in South Africa, he proved to be a great success working with the Church Lads Brigade that he took over an old public house and turned it into a boys club (which the boys named the 'Noel Club').

1918 - war arrived and Mellish immediately joined the Chaplain's Department where he served throughout the duration of the war (May 1915 - February 1919). Not long after the death of his brother, Richard Coppin Mellish in September 1915, Mellish found himself in action with the 4th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers at Ypres. It was here during the 'Action of the St Eloi Craters' (a two-month action lasting from March to April) that Mellish was awarded the Victoria Cross.

"The object of the operation was to cut away a German salient that encroached on the British lines over a front of about six hundred yards. Tunnelling companies had prepared six mines which were blown in the early hours of March 27th. Following this at 4-15am the 4th Royal Fusiliers with the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers and some Canadian units went over the top to come up against withering rifle, machine gun and artillery fire from the Jaeger regiment manning the enemy trenches. Despite the opposition the attackers did manage to take the German first line trench but then had to consolidate, so weakened were they by the ferocity of the opposition.
Artillery duels then commenced which went on for several days. Eventually the beleaguered British units were relieved, yet local attacks went on in the area until the middle of May."

It was however the three day period of 27th - 29th March which would see the Reverend Mellish move into the annals of the Victoria Cross.

On the 27th March, Mellish went out in the battleground and brought back ten badly wounded men from an area that was potentially lethal as it was covered by the arc of fire from many machine guns.

On the 28th March, the Royal Fusiliers had been relieved but undeterred Mellish once more went out into the killing ground to bring in twelve more men and as dusk came on the 29th, Mellish led a party of volunteers to recover any wounded who remained.

A quote from a letter by an officer of the Northumberland Fusiliers who had witnessed these actions:

"Nothing could be finer than the way Captain Mellish did his duty and more than his duty during the time he was near us. Immediately the troops captured the trenches and while the wounded were picking their way painfully back, the enemy's guns were turned on full blast and the intervening ground was deluged with shell and machine gun fire. Into this tempest of fire the brave Parson walked, a prayer book under his arm as though on church parade in peace time.

He reached the first of the wounded and knelt down to do what he could for them. The first few he brought in himself without any aid and it made us think a bit more of parsons to see how he walked quietly under fire assisting the slow moving wounded and thinking more of saving them from discomfort than of his own safety.

It was only during a lull in the fighting when the ambulance parties could get out that he finally took a rest.

Next day he was out again unconcerned as ever. Some of the men would not have survived the ordeal had it not been for the prompt assistance rendered to them by Mr Mellish."

For these actions the Revd Mellish was awarded the Victoria Cross (gazetted, April 20th 1916) which he received from the King at Buckingham Palace on June 12th 1916. Mellish continued to minister throughout the war and took the Gospel and the love of Christ into the lives of many whilst he served (and afterwards in Parish ministry).

Mellish's VC can be seen at the Royal Fusiliers Museum in the Tower of London.

For those who see remembrancetide in a negative light. For those who question why we serve as Chaplains in a military setting - perhaps the words of a (Cockney) soldier, who had previously been notoriously anti-church, from the 1914-18 conflict will sum it up:

"What religion is 'e".? When told he replied,

"Well I'm the same as 'im now and the bloke as sez a word agen our church will 'ave 'is ****** 'ead bashed in.

The same is as true today. The members of the armed force's chaplain's departments take the Gospel to those who serve, stand with them where they serve and save life (spiritual and physical) by their actions!

Please pray for those who serve, support those who have by wearing a poppy and honour those who serve, have served or have gone on Armistice Day (11th November) and on remembrance Sunday (13th November).

We will remember them!

Monday 7 November 2011

A better day indeed!

Finished yesterday early (about 2:30am) and started a bit later than usual (about 6:45am) with the daily office and then off to buy comestibles for the Chapter meeting and a discussion on sustainability and a cute little graph that maps financial against missional (I'll show you tomorrow). From that rushed back to do a funeral service in church followed by an interment (Autumn appears to finally be with us) and back to QTH (Amateur radio speak for 'home') and a meeting to arrange another funeral. From that rushed back out and visited hospital in Sutton Coldfield, picked up No. ! child on way back and then in for Kid's Club - played pool, Xbox 360 and made toast for the kids who came - excellent stuff or what?

Back to the Vicar's Palace and had a night off with Mrs. Vicarage and now, having send children No. 3 & 4 off to bed (1 doing school stuff and 2 tinkering with wireless headphones) and time for a recap on the day - evening office, tea and an early night.

Thank you to those who prayed for the 'Mission-Shaped Introduction - we had twenty-five turn up for the first night and there were a few churches from within the Deanery (and without) represented, which bodes well for the future of the Church and the hope of the Gospel for the lost!

Thanks to those who read these scribblings and the prayer for those whom I seek to serve, and for me in my paucity of . . just about everything! And for those who take heart, find a glimmer of God and a hope in their own lives - thanks for coming on this journey with me. May God bless you richly :-)


Mostly Blessed?

Before someone asks why yesterday was 'mostly blessed' let me explain:

The day was one of those with multiple services and the first of a six-week 'Mission-Shaped Introduction' course (which was really well populated). From the gentle said Eucharist and into the All-Age service, which was a blessing on a number of levels we had lunch to celebrate my beloved's birthday and then back into the course. Setting up, checking powerpoint presentations, checking video clips and putting out the drinks and biscuits, setting out the chairs (which I wildly underestimated) and then, of course, clearing away afterwards.

Back home and some fireworks, bit of cake (still my beloved's birthday don't forget) and a need to be resolved. But I can't resolve it. I have a person in need of a place of safety and the church building is already taken and those who I hope can help are nowhere to be found! In the end we came up with a 'sort of' solution but more and more the need for us to have a couple of houses converted to support those who have found themselves homeless presses hard against my conscience.

Councils are keen to do their 'statutory minimum' when it comes to housing and some are keener to offer the fare for a journey to somewhere else than provide within its own boundaries. Good Christians in the place where I live are there and will offer a place for a night but the numbers are small and the need is often great and this, tonight, weighs heavily.

We need to offer more than a few bob or a, "Be blessed - go well<" response - we need out councils and our society to offer more than that and the Church should be speaking and acting as the public conscience (for truly the public seem rarely to have one these days).

The question, "What Would Jesus Do?" is surely tempered with the question, "What Did I do?"

2:12 - it's a cold, clear night and as I pull the plug and head off for bed I wonder what more I can do, where have all the Christian soldiers gone?


Sunday 6 November 2011

Foolish Virgins and Fresh Expressions

What a stunningly great day it has been here in paradise! Running from the early morning communion (which was pretty well attended) through the Family Service (where were they?) and then on through various encounters and activities into the first evening of the 'Mission-Shaped Introduction' and then more besides - one couldn't say the day was quiet, simple or effortless - but boy was it blessed (mostly!).

This morning was about foolish virgins and not being ready for the day that was to come (yet no one was going to know the day or the hour). Made me think how easy it is to put your hand up in a meeting, pray the sinner's prayer and think that you're now in. But there just seems to be a need to be ready and the unpreparedness of the virgins meant that they didn't make it into the wedding banquet. Reminiscent of the man who did and 'being incorrectly dressed' was thrown out of the window into the darkness with all that went with it!

It's obviously not enough to sit and assume we're in, we need to do something about this Christian lifestyle - is it give money, do stuff, hold services or something else? Well the Amos reading this morning left us in no doubt that God doesn't want services, load of them, but wants relationship and it is from this relationship that we live, do and have meaning in our life!

An easy rope to start considering the needs of those who are outside the Church and how Fresh Expressions (FE) might be just what they need. The problem is that I meet people who move a service to a different time (or venue) and call it an FE! So, if you're not sure, let me give you the definition:

"A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church."

Simple, isn't it? It's about providing a place for those who aren't Church to become it! It's not a relocation of venue or a changing of the service time - it's about making what we do accessible to those outside - and that's much, much, much more! (sorry Police Academy gene problems!)

So - as we go through this week why don't we look at the people we engage with and ask ourselves a few questions:

When would be a good time for them to engage with believers?

Where would be a good place to do this?

What should we be doing to make it relevant to the person, their culture, social needs and personal circumstances?

Three little questions that could just set someone's lamp alight :-)