Friday, 24 November 2017

Collect for Black Friday

Give us, O God, elbows as sharp as those of Jonah, who had to pick up a replacement gourd cheap at the market in Nineveh.  Let our eye for a bargain be as keen as that woman in Proverbs who Evangelicals read about at weddings. And let us be as ready for Christmas as the Three Wise Men who, on that first Black Friday, picked up some very reasonably priced Frankincense and Myhrr from an Amazon, and due to her bargain prices still had some gold left over.

Amen.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Minister for Having Your Euro Cake and Eating It

Across the border in Milton Keynes South, the MP is revolting.  I mean, against the tyranny of the EU.

Milton Keynes was competing to be the European City of Culture. Which seems fair enough in one sense- it has a cracking "Theatre District" - and yet in another sense it's odd. After all, it isn't even a city. But maybe that isn't important. Anyway, what is important is that MK can no longer be the City of Culture. The clue why isn't the word "City". It's the concept of "European".

You see, the UK has voted for Brexit. And City of Culture is an EU scheme. And you can only be the European City of Culture if you're in a country which is in the EU, or a candidate for it, or in the EFTA or EEA.

None of which apply to the current plans for Brexit. So poor old MK - which voted out of the EU - can't be the European City of Culture. You may wonder about the state of a town which votes to leave Europe but wants to be the European City of Culture. But not the MP for MK South, who tweets:

I'm looking forward to Iain Stewart getting the portfolio as Minister for Cake. And explaining how his policy is that we should both have it, and eat it.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Thanksgiving Goes Bad

Thanks to Hnaef for his special "Thanksgiving Liturgy."

In which we gave thanks to God that the Pilgrim Parents: the most boring, annoying, pushy, generally joyless group of Christians these islands ever produced, went off to America.  We got Hnaef to do the service as he spends most time there, selling red hats.

Hnaef's creative liturgy was based around those two birds most beloved of Americans: the Thanksgiving Turkey and the Bald Eagle.

Yeah. It turns out that, unlike in the Prophet Isaiah. this is not a time when the turkey will lie down with the eagle.

I mean, it's not like the turkey is the natural food of the bald eagle. But "Sam" was hungry after being borrowed from the wild bird exhibition. And a bit edgy about being delivered into a Moot House full of Beaker Folk who all went "oooo" when they saw her.

So poor old Tilly the Turkey. You could say feathers were flying. But not for long.

So we swept up the feathers and put what was left of Tilly in the compost. Waste not want not. And we asked Hnaef if he could do something that would perfectly capture the spirit of today's USA.

So he blamed a black sportsman and went off to play golf.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Low Attendance at Husborne Crawley Church

In 1851, the famous Religious Census was carried out across the nation - producing a result startling to the Establishment, in that only 40% of the population actually went to church.

Husborne Crawley church had its census (presumably the now-gone Methodist chapel did as well). After numbering the people present, the census noted ""The weather being unfavourable, the attendance was rather below average".

Well, at least that's the excuse the church wardens gave.



Pre-Advent Bingo

Time like an ever-rolling stream carries us ever closer to Advent.

Ah, Pre-Advent! That time of expectation when we get ready for the next 5 weeks of relentless Christmas, until we get to Christmas and start thinking about buying new couches on the debt we can't afford and next summer's holiday to a place where, for one last summer, we won't have to queue for ages to get into a country we have decided we don't really want to be friends with anymore.

But to while away the time till Advent gets here, why not play Beaker Advent Bingo? Just look out for the signs of the times, and listen for the catchphrases of the Scrooges de nos jours.  If you get five in a row, downwards across or diagonal, award yourself the first crafty swig of the Baileys you put on top of the high cupboard in the kitchen so you weren't tempted.  If you get a full house before Advent Sunday, just give up and put a Santa hat on.  Christmas is clearly already here.

"Not even Advent Yet"
"We used to put the tree up on Xmas Eve
First article by an uninformed Guardian journalist saying that Christmas was originally a pagan festival. And making some disastrous philological mistakes.
"What do you mean Black Friday is a week?"
Seasonal reminder that the White House Turkey will be dead of inbred medical conditions before next Thanksgiving
"55 quid for dinner on Xmas Day at the pub? I'll cook it myself."
"Couldn't get in the pub for people in Santa hats and it's not even December".
Reindeer Horns on Bar Staff
Stores playing 10 seconds snatches of Christmas music to advertise their "CD Jukebox" which won't last till New Year.
A load of people you don't recognise on "I'm a Celebrity."
Realising Children in Need has gone past and being relieved you never even noticed.
You run out of the cheap booze you bought in France to save for Xmas and New Year.
Rotary Club advertising their Father Christmas is coming round but you don't know why. Charity maybe you reckon?
Mince pies with a "best before" date before Christmas 
"Is it Cyber Monday or Blue Monday?"
You hear "A Spaceman Came Travelling" for the ninety-third time.
Freezer is full of the thousands of pounds of onions your relative with an allotment gave you before the frosts struck
Realising you're getting old and overweight when someone asks if you can be Father Christmas.
What do you mean Black Friday is a week?
German Christmas Markets pop up in English provincial towns like a love for all things German has been gripping them the last two years.
Adverts for after shave are following you round the Internet after you had a quick look for Uncle Ron's present on Amazon.
Daily Express forecasts that it's going to be the coldest winter ever.
Bling you could see from outer space
Sunday Morning church readings getting increasingly threatening. Vicar coming up with caveats for God. Like none of it will really happen.
Warnings that it's going to be a bad Christmas on the High Street. Whatever a High Street is.




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Going Fundamentalist for Christmas

Typical innit. No sooner had I confined all Beaker Folk to their rooms for worship in the interests of convenience and tailored worship experiences, than the Guardian tells me that I've got it all wrong.

If I want successful worship experiences, I've got to become a literal believer in the Bible. Only in this way will I ensure a growing church - and therefore a decent revenue stream.

Though needless to say it's not that straightforward.  I've listed the signs of growing and non-growing churches below, from the Grauniad, and some notes.
Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches. 
So basically if you think you're in the job of growing new Christians, you'll be more successful at growing new Christians than if you don't. This is not really a literalist / liberal distinction per se. More a statement of the bleeding obvious. If you think it's very important to learn to drive a car, you're more likely to drive a car. If you think that it's important that people who have been let down by the Government's safety net are still fed, you're more likely to give to a food bank. If you're one of the 50% of clergy in declining churches that don't think it's important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians, I do wonder what on earth you think you're doing as a clergy, however
71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.
Well, yeah. A clergy will read the Bible daily if they think it is worthwhile. And if they think it's worthwhile, they'll probably be in the realm of thinking growing new Christians is a good idea, they might give the impression they think what goes on on a Sunday is worthwhile, and that might make their church a more attractive place. Although what it doesn't do is tell us that the Bible reading is a literalist or non-literalist activity. Plenty of us can read it and believe it in non-literalist ways - especially around Genesis, Revelation, Psalms and what have you.
46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.
If they're at a growing church they are likely newer, they'll be keener, they'll be generally more wanting to find out the Good News they've just heard of. So causation and correlation could be interesting on this one.
93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.
As the clergy that read their Bible every day know, if Christ is not raised from the dead then everything else is in vain. You can hold your food banks, preach against racism, welcome people of all genders and none - but if you don't believe Jesus raised why should anyone come to church?
100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers”, compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.
There's a pattern here. In growing churches, clergy believe more than their followers. In declining churches, clergy believe less. If you believe less than your congregation, I wonder why you're a clergy. But let's  move on.
The study also found that about two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60.
Hate to be brutal here, but this is a bit cart and horse isn't it?  ie what is causation and what is correlation. If your congregation has two thirds over the age of 60, then they're going to be dying quicker than they are breeding. And vice versa. The alternative, that being part of a growing church makes you younger, would possibly be the best reason on earth to start going to a growing church.

So my conclusion? Based on the definitions in these questions, I'm a literalist. A bit of a shock, but I suppose the Guardian knows what it's talking about. Though I do wonder why the Beaker Folk aren't growing, in that case. But - if you believe Christ rose, you believe God can work, get on and worship. Preach the Gospel. If necessary use verbs. Don't count the numbers - keep the light alive. That's what you're called to.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A Litany of Anglican Woe for the New Church of England Website

Woe are we! For the Church of England has changed its website
into a funky new mobile-looking format.
Where now are the links I made?
In vain I search for the Collect for the 3rd Sunday after World Tartan Trousers Day.
For Google is like unto a false prophet
that searcheth only lies.
I google the Eucharistic Prayer B
and end up on the "Join us in Daily Prayer" page.
For "Baptism and Confirmation without Communion."
I end up on the "Join us in Daily Prayer" page.
For the Advent "O" Antiphons I look in vain.
Oh no, that one worked. Well done. As you were.
And for the "Service of the Word"
it sends me to the "Join us in Daily Prayer" page.
Does the C of E suspect we're only taking services on Sunday, and it's trying to persuade us to worship midweek?
For seven whole days, not one in seven, we are supposed to praise Thee.
Or are the C of E really needy
and desperate for us to "Join them in Daily Prayer?"
If so can we suggest a podcast
so commuters whose eyes are tired and worn out
can listen instead of reading
Lest they lose concentration
and return to Twitter.
(Assuming they're on a bus or train. If they're driving they really shouldn't be using an on-screen text-based liturgy.

One thing consoles me as I flounder around
Two things comfort me.
That Google, which seeth all things, will sort out its algorithms
And in 6 weeks we'll be moaning about something else entirely.
And that in the meantime I've got no problems finding Morning Prayer in Tradition Language.

Amen


(Public service announcement: Law and Religion UK have published a handy set of shortcuts while the SEO gets itself sorted out.)



What some are calling "quite a funny book which would be good for Aunt Ethel for Christmas. She's always writing to the Vicar.
Though she never signs them.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Liturgy of our Deepest Expressions of Self

I've got to say, I've ever seen a well-rounded act of worship as last night's "Liturgy of our Deepest Expressions of Self." In many ways it was the outworking of the vision we had when we set up the Beaker Folk.

In this postmodern world, we know that the deepest expression of  anyone's self is going to be tailored, self-curated, basically deeply individual. So to do this in the context of an act of collective worship - which is by its nature corporate - we had to break up the act of worship into a number of "Me Stations."

The "Rainbow Station," for instance, was a joyous place dedicated to the idea that I don't have to be like you; and I also don't have to be like you. A celebration of diversity, love and difference. Where you don't even need to encounter other people.

While the "Truth Station" was dedicated to the hard Gospel Truth - that everyone has to be like me. Or possibly you. A clever piece of software took the worshipper's face and projected it onto everybody in a virtual congregation, while the worshipper listened to their - or more likely his - favourite piece of Worship music.

The "World Worship Station" led to some confusion.  Some Beaker Folk thought it was about worshipping in the style of the Rend Collective or some Peruvian folk base community. But no. It was pantheism all the way down.

And then the authentic Good Ol' Boy American Midwest-Style station. Who would have thought that shooting at tin cans and handling virtual poisonous snakes while being sneered at by New Yorkers could be such fun?

And it's given me some real pause for thought. If we can provide such immersive worship experiences why does the congregation need to get together? All that co-ordination, compromise and unwanted hugging can he avoided.

So from now on all Beaker worship is being provided via the BeakerWeb. People can stay in their rooms and take part.

And I can flog the Moot House off for redevelopment.


Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Liturgy for Gun Safety in Church

Archdruid: And so we as we stand in unity with whoever has suffered the most recent mass-shooting we give thanks for those who carry their guns to church, to ensure everyone's safe and nobody gets hurt.

81-year-old Bloke from Tennessee: Indeed, the Lord has given unto me this gun so that I can protect myself and my wife from harm.

The 81-year-old Bloke from Tennessee accidentally discharges his gun, injuring himself and his wife.

Archdruid: And even as we pray that the 81-year-old Bloke from Tennessee and his wife are healed, we cannot help but reflect that irony is not dead.

Local NRA Rep: See if somebody else had had a gun, they could have shot the 81-year-old Bloke from Tennessee's gun out of his hand, before he managed to shoot himself and his wife.

Charlii: Is that realistic?

Local NRA Rep: No, not really. Oh - look! A murderer! Quick! Shoot him!

Archdruid: Put the gun down you idiot. It's just Burton Dasset.

Local NRA Rep: No there!  Look!

Charlii: That's a squirrel.

Local NRA Rep: A murderous squirrel?

Archdruid: And so, as we pray for the United States to overcome its terrible addiction to guns capable of mass slaughter, we reflect that the only thing safer than an American with a gun....

Local NRA Rep: Is a load of Americans with even more guns!

Archdruid: They put people on the moon. You've gotta wonder.