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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Litany For People With "Creative" English

Hymn: Theirs a place where the Street's Shine

Archdruid: Woe are us for we are people of unclean lips'.

All: Our apostrophe's are upon us.

Archdruid: We have done what we ought not to of done.

All: We have failed to do what we ought to of done.

Archdruid: We have used prepositions to end sentences with.

All: Though we dare to definitely claim that that isn't a real grammatical error. And we've defiantly used the right words though, ironically, not necessarily in the right order.

Archdruid: People of better grammar have pointed they're fingers at us.

All: "Their they are", they cry. "There English is atrocious."

Archdruid: And so we have less people who respect us.

All: They're not never going to be are friends.

Archdruid: ai wouldn't behave like that if I was them.  We think they should get off of those hobby horses.

All: And, irregardless of prejudice, hopefully they'll come to love us.

Archdruid: Or, fortuitously, decide their as bad as we are.

All: And decide that's a nuff condemnation.

Archdruid: For if God won't never condemn us, why shouldn't they? Gods love is unlimitedless.

All: Its unboundedlessness is infinite.

Hymn: Will You're Anchor Hold?

Archdruid: Go in Piece.

All: This must of ended.

Nativity of Henry Blofeld

Archdruid: My dear old things!

All: My dear old thing!

Litany of Crickety Happiness

Archdruid: The red bus winds past the gasometer.

All: A pigeon flutters at mid-on.

Archdruid: A bright orange plane whose company we are not allowed to mention...

All: Flits towards the west

Archdruid: And there's another one.

All: And another one.

Archdruid: Puffy clouds bubble up over Pimlico

All: And there's someone dressed as a womble!

Archdruid: Ali Cook, like some Greek tragic actor

All: Ponders the inequities of fate.

Archdruid: His shadow, maybe like his best days,

All: Behind him.

Archdruid: And the voice of Geoffrey is heard in the land.

All: I think I'll have some cake.

Archdruid: Does anybody know what the score is?

All: Oh I say!

Archdruid: Wasn't that Jonners?

All: Our grannies could have written a better liturgy with a stick of rhubarb.


Archdruid: and so we salute the risen sun, giver of light and burn.

All: it's a bit cold, in it?

Archdruid: The year is poised like a bird on a telephone wire, neither day nor night has sway.

All: it's really rather parky.  Can't we do this in the Moot House?

Archdruid: As the prophet wrote, "the summer is over and we are not yet saved."

All: Given your sermons that's not surprising. Can we go in the warm now, please, Eileen?

Archdruid: The emblazoned leaves fall from the trees.

All: That's ash die-back. We told you - you should have consulted Defra at the time.

Archdruid: Dying! Dying! The year is dying!

All: That's more like it. Bit of serious melodrama. Much better for the whole gloomy atmosphere.

Archdruid: And now, Hnaef will once again attempt his Equinoctial a Feat of Balance on the tightrope above the Duck Pond, after which we will return to the Great House for baked apples.

All: Baked apples! Why didn't you say?

All may immediately leave for the Great House, to discover there's proper custard as well.

Hnaef: Hello? Is there anybody there? I daren't look down. Can anybody help me?

Monday, 22 September 2014

Church Maintenance With Tony Blair

Thanks to Tony Blair for taking time out of his busy life as a jet-setting after-dinner speaker, bringer of peace and walker on water to answer questions in this special edition of "Church Maintenance".

This church is attempting to hide its identity so it can invade Kensington
Dear Tony

We have a compost heap at the bottom of the churchyard, where we put grass clippings and dead flowers from the graves. When we came to empty it out, we found a number of newts seem to be using it as a base. What do you advise we do?

Yours newtily

'Newt' Gingerish

Dear Newt 

Love the name! There are different types of newts, and they have different conservation statuses. So you need  to be careful. 

If they're palmate newts, they're a protected species.  It's against the law to  destroy them. So you'll need a really imaginative dossier to explain why you're doing it. If they're crested newts, I'd just send in the drones to take them out. We have strong evidence that crested newts are in alliance with Al Qaeda. And if they're not, they will be after I've sent in Special Forces.



Dear Tony

Last year we thought we would grow a wildflower patch in the graveyard. It was lovely as the poppies and cornflowers came through! This year, however, we seem to have an outbreak of teasels. What do you suggest?


Poppy Flowers

Dear Poppy - if that is your real name.

I have reason to suspect that you are working for a foreign power that I shall not mention. I have had your phone hacked, and you have repeatedly mentioned to your friend "Doris" (another pseudonym, I expect) that you have been working hard at establishing the "plants".

The case could not be more clear. By the powers vested in me as the Supreme Peace-Bringer of the Universe, I am putting you under house arrest. Mr Campbell will be round by the time you are reading this. I know. He's watching.



Dear Tony

Bats in the belfry! There are droppings on the altar coverings and some of the flower ladies are terrified to go into the church after it gets dark. Any hints?


Mary Quite-Contrary

Dear Mary

Again, we are in an area where the law takes a very dim view of the extermination of these obviously malicious creatures. But if you do nothing, you will only be encouraging them to invade Lebanon. So I suggest simply blowing them up, and denying you did anything wrong afterwards. It always works for me!



Dear Tony

We have a quite hideous tapestry given to us in memory of someone's Auntie 20 years ago. But I have read if we simply sell it, or even throw it away without a faculty, we could be in break of Church Law. The diocese says we have to keep it because it is of intrinsic worth and in keeping with its setting. What do you suggest?

Yours worriedly

Art Lover

Dear Art

Worry no more! If you can't get something passed straight away, why not try just using the Parliament Act to subvert democracy? And if that fails, make up some stuff about it secretly recruiting for ISIS and blow it up. They'll probably make you a peace envoy - but not in the Middle East! You after my job?!



Dear Tony

I've checked the newts in the compost to see what type they are, and there's a couple of slow worms as well. Should I approach this more carefully?


'Newt' Gingerish

Dear 'Newt'

More carefully? What are you on? Can't you see that these evil lizards are already forming alliances, ready to march on the Churchyard? There's not a moment to lose. I'm sending in a crack squadron of toads.

Which reminds me. Anybody seen Lord Prescott?



Dear Tony

How would you approach woodworm in pitch-pine pews?


Sven "Norwegian" Wood

Dear Sven

With a flame-thrower.



Dear Tony

Our vicar loves incense. But all the hangings and robes smell of it for days afterwards. What do you suggest?


Chesney Cough

Dear Chesney

In your situation, I'd introduce a smoking ban. I did, and it worked.  Now nobody goes to the pub anymore! Horrible places, full of common people, they were.



Dear Tony

One of the light bulbs has gone in the chancel. It's about 40 feet above an uneven freestone floor. In these elf' 'n' safety days, how would you deal with it?


"Church Warden"

Dear Church Warden

Should you ignore me and send someone up to deal with it using only a ladder, or even inadequate scaffolding, let me know. Cherie will be only too glad to sue the cassock off you, the Vicar and the entire PCC.

If you take my advice, though, at a range of 40 feet you can't beat a nice shotgun. Should remove the problem completely - no light fitting left to worry about! And if you're lucky, you might take out a few bats.



Dear Tony

In this centenary year, do you have any suggestions on how we could clean up our 1914-18 war memorial?


"Slugger" Tomlinson

Dear Slugger

If only people paid more attention to me, you wouldn't need to worry about that grubby old war memorial.

You could have a nice shiny new one.



They are the 44.7

I was a little baffled by the #weare45 hashtag that has lately been popular. I gradually realised that it was something to do with Scottish independence.

I was mildly in favour of Scottish independence - being a strong supporter of independence for Mid Anglia myself - a nation that, like the Hwicce, was cruelly colonised by the Mercians in the Dark Ages. But I didn't twig that the hashtag was to do with this, as after all the "Yes" vote was 44.7%. I guess it's been rounded up to save characters, and also because decimal points don't work in hashtags.

But, as I say, I didn't make that connection for a while. When I realised that it was to do with Scotland, I naturally thought it was an allusion to the '45 rebellion of Charles Stuart.

A popular movement that celebrated its successes too early, over-reached itself and ending up in failure. The leader of the movement, of course, gave up after the defeat and never took an active part in the life of Scotland again.

I'm not sure that's a good image to conjure, that's all.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Praise him on the Loud Homophone

Head absolutely buzzing after this evening's meditative participatory worship, it was. And not in a good way.

I told everybody this morning that we would all be taking part in an exploration of the use of symbols in worship.

Should have printed the notices instead, shouldn't I? Would have made it clearer. And saved me this massive headache.

And Marston Moretaine had to go to extremes, didn't he. It's not just that he brought a gong along - not even a cymbal. It's the fact he went to all the trouble of oiling up to bash it. Songs of Praise this was not.

Gongman from VCI Classic Films

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

The story of the call of Matthew, and dinner with the tax collectors. One of those touch points where Jesus's direction towards the cross is just kind of nudged. A minor row with the religious powers over who's allowed to come to dinner. Which of the three parties - the tax collectors, the Pharisees, Jesus - do you feel sympathy for here?

It is entirely reasonable, it seems to me, that the Pharisees object to Jesus eating with tax collectors.

The tax collector was a part of the structure of Roman world. And the Romans may have given the Jews the aqueduct, sanitation, decent roads and so on. But they were also one of the nastiest races ever to walk this earth. Those who see their law codes and shiny ancient buildings may admire them. But in their vicious oppression of those that opposed them - mass executions, crucifixion, the rape of female captives (and male ones) they make ISIS look like amateurs.

The creation of the roads, the buildings, the upkeep of the Legions that kept the natives down - these all came at a price. The Romans taxed people for the infrastructure that kept them under control. Didn't tax them as heavily as the United Kingdom is taxed, of course. But then they didn't provide a National Health Service, social security or subsidised train travel.

So Matthew as a tax collector was a part of the structure of oppression set up by the Romans. He was a cog in the Inperial machine. When John the Baptist is talking to tax collectors, he tells them - dont collect more than you should. Which presumably means the tax collectors were able to adjust their operating margins for their own good - add on a service charge, as somebody might say today.

We don't know whether Matthew was putting a premium on what he was supposed to be collecting. But he was part of that system, from Syria to France, of extracting money from people to pay for their own suppression. It was a rotten system, if you were a Jew or a Gaul. Though it was quite nice for the Emperor.

If Matthew follows Jesus, what does it mean? The loss of his job? The loss of his family's income? We don't know anything much about his personal life. Maybe he couldn't marry because which nice Jewish girl would marry a tax collector? Maybe he was young, but building himself up in the business. Making a solid start in the extortion trade, so he could settle down later. Maybe this was the only job he could get, and it was the only way he could keep his head above water.

Jesus calls him, and he follows. And there's another apostle, ready to be trained, to be sent out. When he goes to sit and have dinner with Jesus, he's not even the only tax-collector there. There are so many of them the Pharisees have a right moan. What is it about Jesus that he attracts this riff raft?

"I desire mercy," says Jesus, "not sacrifice". The sacrifice could just be done. Just like coming to church on a Sunday morning. It's a ritual. It costs money sure - a bull or lamb was an expensive item then, as they are now. But as part of the Jewish society, it's just a thing. You offer, you're better with God. To be fair to the Pharisees they were much better than that. They really wanted to be holy. They worked hard to keeping themselves free of sin. They wanted God to love them - and to love them for being good. I've got a lot of time for them, really.

But the tax collectors were part of the other a Establishment. The one that kept the Pharisees, and all the other Jews, well down at heel. The one that could, if it fancied the fight, take the images of its gods into Jerusalem. The one which would one day come down on Judea like a wolf on the fold. What's Jesus doing with them?

"I desire mercy," says Jesus, "not sacrifice". They're establishment stooges, these tax collectors. They're traitors to their people. Some of them are crooks. But Jesus is going to love them.  Following Jesus doesn't stop us identifying sin - especially this kind of structural sin, where a society is based on it, dependent on it. It was easier for the Pharisees to identify this kind of sin than it would be for us, sometimes, I suspect. Because - for all the pantomime villain reputation we give them - the Pharisees were the victims too, here. But we, where our cheap clothes and air-freighted food and our jobs or our pension funds can depend on oppression - we have to look a bit more carefully, but still call it out.

But then, like Jesus, we have to remember that those we have identified, the ones that run the unjust systems in our world - they're our neighbours too.

It was those two clashing systems - the Roman Empire and the religious establishment - that came together to crucify Jesus. And on the Cross, he prayed that the ones who did it to them should be forgiven.

Maybe a message we can draw from the Gospel of Matthew is simply this. That there's no human system that we should not be brave enough to judge. And no human being that is no precious enough for God to save.

Friday, 19 September 2014

A-Z Guide to Church of England Terminology

The Church of England can be hard to understand. Even for those in it. Especially if they've been on the gin.

But, thanks to my 6 months' experience in that august institution, I can help you.  Here you go..... 

Acolyte - from the Greek for "Minion with a candle".

Alpha Course - Induction into a form of Christianity that at some points shares some ideas with Anglicanism.

Anglican Use (of Liturgy) - What the Bishop don't know can't hurt him or, soon, her.

Archbishop - on the "pyramid of needs', the one who meets the need to blame someone.

Archdeacon - (1) Curate who behaves in a roguish way (2) Part-time rental agent (3) Bishop's enforcer.

Benefice - from the Latin for "it's for your own good".

Book of Common Prayer - despite what you may have heard, almost completely comprehensible and utterly beautiful.

"Called to be one" - an event that demonstrated how many phone boxes you could fit the entire Ordinariate into.

Chancel - A thing that could hypothetically be improved. As in "Are you going to do that reordering of the whole building, Father?" "Chancel be a fine thing'.

Churchwarden - Ninja usher.

Curate: Technically "Assistant Curate". One who helps cure souls while learning on the job. What souls need curing of has always been a matter of theological debate.

Deacon - Of the entire cast of "Reservoir Deacons", Tarantino's misjudged sequel,  only Revd Blue is remembered.

Deanery Synod - Gathering of people for whom PCC can't come round often enough.

Diocesan Synod - For people with absolutely no social life at all.

Evangelical - Not to be confused with Evangelism

Evangelism - Jumble sales, fĂȘtes and coffee mornings, just as St Paul recommended.

FĂȘte - a thing that is worse than death. An attempt to raise money for the Church by buying your own jam.

General Synod - A place where the people who have honed their decision-making skills at PCC get together to make decisions. When they fail, it's the bishops' fault.

Gradual Hymn - the one before the Gospel. So called because the altar party sneak gradually down the aisle, like weeping angels.

Harvest Festival - Raising money for the Church by buying your own beetroot.

House of Bishops - Reality TV show in which George Carey is locked in a house. There are no cameras.

HTB - Holy Terrain Bike - a form of transport that can operate across parish boundaries.

Incumbent - one who incumbs. Or, possibly, is incumbed. Someone of godlike and immense power and magnetic personality before they start their job, and after they leave, but not while they are actually doing their job.

Joshua (Book of) - a thing that has to be rationalised away or, better, never mentioned.
Nobody every worked out what happened to Fr Barnet after he forced the PCC to make that decision.

Kingdom of God - can be found in the cracks, cranks and children.

Local Licensed Minister/ Local Lay Minister / Lay Reader - a class of people who spend their time writing minutes and notices because the Vicar's doing the real work. Spend their days seething with frustration and their nights dreaming of when the Vacancy comes. Or they can arrange it.

Methodist - Half the average rural congregation.

Mothers' Union - Not necessarily mothers. Not necessarily united.

Nave - The bit of the Church building where the knaves sit.

"O" Antiphon - The prequel to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

Organ - Trendy modern musical instrument that replaced the traditional music groups.

Parish - Arbitrary parcel of land in which some of a Church community may actually live.

Parish boundary - Line drawn around a parish, across which no other C of E church may proselytise, baptise or evangelise. Unless it does so regardless.

Parish Share - Nominal amount of money that is bigger than anyone can imagine.

Parochial Church Council (PCC)- small body of people who get together for three hours every couple of months, to frustrate the vicar's latest plans, remember what life was like in previous centuries, and - most importantly - make no decisions.

Quire - Better spelling of "Choir".

Rector - Not to be confused with "Vicar".

Rowan - Saint-like bard of legend, who united the Church in its inability to know what he was on about.

Rural Dean - Often lives in a town. Rarely called Dean. An imposter. If you ever meet a Rural Dean called Dean in a village, congratulate him on his integrity.

SSM - Self-supporting Minister or Same-sex Marriage. The Church doesn't understand either very well, thinks neither is as good as the real thing,  but only actually bans one. And definitely doesn't bann one.

Suffragan Bishop - Like being the Deputy Prime Minister.  You know you won't get the Big Job.

Supreme Governor - what the monarch is. Not the "head" of the Church. That's somebody else.

TI - Terrifying Instructor - the vicar in a new curate's parish.

Unicorn - Found, with a lion, on many church walls. So you know who's really in charge.

Vicar - not to be confused with "Rector".

Women's Institute - not to be confused with Mother's Union. No. Stop confusing them, now.

X - Crosses are often used to decorate churches. Carrying them is much scarier.

Y - chromosome - no longer obligatory in pulpits or - soon - bishop's thrones.

Zzzzzz - Noise made when a PCC meeting reaches its fourth hour.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Thought for the Day

If all the members of Westboro Baptist Church were lined up end to end, they would almost certainly reckon it was some kind of sin.