Friday, 18 August 2017

Brucie : The Last of an Age

Archdruid: Nice to see you

All: To see you, nice.

Archdruid: What's on the doors, Young Keith?

Keith: "All flesh is as grass."

Archdruid: True, but not as cheerful as I was hoping.

Burton Dasset: Charlii, can you give us a twirl?

Charlii: Sexist.

Burton: Hnaef, can you give us a twirl?

Hnaef does a twirl

All: Lovely Hi vis!

Hnaef: Just something I picked up in Arco.

Archdruid: Life is the name of the game.

All: Good game! Good game!

Archdruid: What do points make?

All: Prizes!

Archdruid: And so we must all reach the end of the conveyor belt of life. And whether we have collected a toaster, fondue set, saucepans or a cuddly toy, we know we must lay them all down and look to the biggest prize of all. And though no-one can know the destination of any other - whether higher or lower - yet we can remember the man who made us laugh and enlivened our childhood Satuday evenings.

All: Didn't he do well!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Liturgy of Patronising The People Getting Their A Level Results

Hymn: Another Brick in the Wall

Archdruid: Let us all humble-brag our poor educational results.

Famous Columnist: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a Famous Columnist.

Twitter Vicar: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a vicar on Twitter.

TV Presenter: Failed all mine and now I get to read an auto cue for a living.

Famous Brain Surgeon: I failed all my A Levels but I worked my way up via carpentry

Businessman: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a successful businessman.

All: What about you, Eileen?

Archdruid: 4 A grades and went to Oxford. Why do you think I'm the Archdruid?

All: No. You're supposed to say you failed and it didn't matter.

Archdruid: Well of course it matters if you fail. What is this? Self-delusion day? Self-publicising day for people who got away with not trying...?

The Archdruid is dragged out of the Moot House.

Hnaef: I failed all my A Levels and...

Archdruid  [From outside] : Liar! Mmmph!

Charlii: Let us all now praise ourselves...

Hymn: School's Out

Stacey: Let us go in peace to big ourselves up.

All: Too right!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Garden Bridge : A Requiem

Hymn: Bridge over Troubled Waters

Archdruid: Ave Boris! Pontifex Minimus!

All: Is that real Latin?

Archdruid: I don't know.

Hnaef: Shouldn't that be 2nd or 3rd Declension Bor-e?

Archdruid: But how would you know that wasn't pronounced "bore?"

All: Sounds reasonable to me either way.

Archdruid: Oh, I dunno. We never did dead posh boys' languages at St Mitholmroyd's. I did Technology.

All: And even failed that.

Reading - Eccles 1

Reader:  "Vanity! Vanity...."

Archdruid: Yeah, that sums it up.

Hymn: The Eton Boating Song

Row, row, row your boat
When it's nice and sunny
You couldn't build a garden bridge
with the plebians' money.

Archdruid: Poor Boris laments and cannot be comforted.

All: His bridge is no more.

Archdruid: Where now can Joanna Lumley go to be absolutely fabulous?

All: Oh, she's got a few quid. She'll be comfortable.

Archdruid: So thank goodness Boris won't be allowed near any other vanity projects that will make us all much poorer just to bolster his ego.

All: Look, we hate to tell you this...

From afar comes the sound of treaties being torn up by a floppy-haired lecherous incompetent.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Boris Khan't : A Garden Bridge

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

In Westminster did Boris Khan't
A stately garden bridge decree:
The Thames, the muddy river, ran
Through Millwall, Barking, Dagenham
    Down to a frozen sea.
Three hundred meters in the air
were planned to thrill with flowers fair:
There would be gardens bright with planting grand,
Where blossomed many a commercially sponsored tree;
And here were Lumleys, honoured through the land,
Enjoying the privileges of chumocracy.

But oh! that deep unbridgeable chasm which yawned
Beneath the financials of this romantic venture!
And Boris Khan't, Tory, louche, mop-hair adorned
Ensuring Joanna Lumley was not scorned
Needed funding for this ludicrous adventure.
And from this river, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this City in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty funding momently was requested:
To assist which public finance was  sequestered
Like rain fell massive amounts of lolly
for the architects who designed this pointless folly:
Boris thought the cash would flow forever
for those engirdling the sacred river.
For years meandering with a mazy motion
Through city committees the planning schemes ran,
Still searching funding unmeasurable to man,
And still the Thames ran to the ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Boris did not hear
Those who said this was a bloody stupid idea.

Maximilian Kolbe /  Heather Heyer

Bracketing these two together, on the feast day of the former.

Both died because somebody else decided that some people, some lives, are worth more than others.

Did those who first supported Hitler imagine how it would pan out? They wanted to blame someone for their state of affairs. Supported the strong man who would put things right. Ended up with a Catholic priest being put to death by injection because they couldn't starve him fast enough. How, the guard that killed him might have asked, did we get from there to here?

By not recognising the humanity in others. Start with those who having nothing in common with you - once you've dehumanised them long enough, you'll soon enough not recognise it in anyone.

Same way when a bunch of child abusers can rape kids because they're not Muslims, because they're white - passing them around because they think they're worth less than their own kids.

Same way that the EDL and their friends can use those rapists to  smear an entire religion, a whole racial group. To make them somebody other, somebody less important, somebody who must be feared.

And so a racist who went on a racist march for racialist motives with people carrying Nazi flags claims he doesn't want to be called a racist. Well you  wouldn't , would you? That would imply you were the oppressor - being called that might cause a moment of self-realisation when you ask, in the manner of Mitchell and Webb, "Are we the baddies, Hank? You know, us with the swastikas and flaming torches shouting about blood, hanging out with the sort of fantasists who drive cars into innocent people?

If you don't recognise the humanity, the diverse image of God if you think that way, in people not like you - that's when you think driving cars into crowds, driving needles into priests' arms, is a reasonable way to behave. It doesn't start with murdering priests, Jews and gypsies. It starts with that suspicion that somebody is less than you - that that somebody wants your power - and that you'll support somebody who'll do something about that.

I'm not going to claim any moral equivalence between Heather Heyer and Maximilian Kolbe. Because some would object that one is better than the other, because one is a priest. And Kolbe's view of Jews has been a source of controversy in itself. But I can identify the common evil that caused their deaths - a fear of others that leads to making them less than human. As a snowball starts off downhill, and causes an avalanche, so do the smallest put-downs, the tiny fears, that lack of love turn into full-on hatred, death and oppression.

Tomorrow is the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin.  And here life turns the world's injustice on its head. If small fears and hates can turn to a terrifying oppression then here's a story where a small good thing turns to a great one - as one young woman says "yes" to hope and brings joy to a whole world, and the promise of a justice that makes tyrants and oppressors fear. 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his humble servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

World Left Handers' Day

I'd like to thank all the left-handed people who came to our World Left Handers' Day service. We were ever so pleased that you all stayed to the drinks party afterwards.

Clearly there's some link between left-handedness and teetotalism.  Still, even though you didn't want to open any of the bottles of wine we provided, the Beaker Folk were ever so happy to pull the corks and enjoy them on your behalf.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Charlottesville Scream

"One day I was marching against the oppression of white people, the Universtiy was on one side and the good ol' boys on the other. I felt our story of oppression and exploitation was being called into question. The sun of white domination was setting, and the nation turning browner. I sensed a scream passing through my nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. The scream of those who had been in charge, who now had to reckon with everyone else as equals."

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Were There Aliens in the Roman Empire?

Controversy has broken out between the academic world and a bunch of conspiracy theorists over whether extra-terrestrial creatures were a common occurence in the Roman Empire, and whether they could have left alien DNA in the gene pool of western Europe.

A noted expert in the so-called "lady in red", Chris de Burgh, said:
A spaceman came travelling on his ship from afar,
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start,
And over a village he halted his craft,
And it hung in the sky like a star, just like a star...
Many alt-righ commentators have doubted the evidence of galactic diversity. One tweeted,

"If there were aliens in 1st Century Palestine how come they haven't appeared in BBC cartoons?"

While another suggested,

"Aliens in a space ship? You'll be suggesting the baby in a manger was God next."

In response, serious historians have suggested that in fact the whole thing was just a crappy 1970s song, played on CDs by department stores that don't have the theological or historical skills to point out the whole conceit is a pile of Roman era pants. Also that - if the best prophecy the aliens could come up with was that 2,000 years later a public schoolboy would rip off their chorus - then frankly they were hardly fit to be mistaken for the star of Bethlehem in the first place. The chances  of aliens having made it to Hadrian's Wall and fought off the Picts with a Martian Death Ray were described as "minimal."

The BBC, in an attempt to ensure balance, had a heated debate between someone who spends his nights on Solsbury Hill in the hope of seeing Peter Gabriel descend from the heavens, someone who believes that the world is flat, and the secretary of the Chris de Burgh fan club. The resultant debate was described in the Independent as:

"You won't believe how Gullible Greg from the Bath UFOlogists burned Brenda the de Burgh fan."

The argument continues. More heat than light is expected.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Thinnest Christian Books in the World

Everything a pastor learns from books after they're ordained: A Digest

The Book of Three Readings everybody knows for Funerals, Weddings and Baptisms

Genuinely useful "alternative" worship ideas

Feminism by Mark Driscoll

Sydney Carter's Greatest Hymns*

The Holy Wisdom of Donald Trump

Sunny Days at Greenbelt: A Photographic Journal

Chord Diagrams for Christian Guitarists

Evangelical-Charismatic Theology

Wonders of 20th Century Church Architecture

The Book of Three Hymns Everybody Knows for Funerals

The Book of Three Hymns Everybody Knows for Weddings and Baptisms

Case Studies of Growth in Liberal Churches

Modern Christian Controversies that Don't Involve Sex

Christian Voice's Little Book of Calm

Anthology of Rowan Williams's Comprehensible Sentences

* technically a leaflet. Printed on one side only. With no hymn words on it.

Service for the Death of Glen Campbell and the Cancellation of Count Arthur Strong's TV Show

So that was a fraught, sad service. And very confused, as people weren't sure whether they were sadder about the death of a much-loved and world-famous singer, or the cancellation of a TV show about a confused imaginary music hall artist.

And "Witchita Lineman" wasn't the best-played hymn we've heard this year. Rodrik's claims that "It's really hard to play a G minor" were getting annoying every time we waited for him to check the fingering and play six buzzing strings.

And then the bit where a bunch of angry lions invaded the Moot House, and we had to rescue a couple of Beaker Folk. I'm pleased to say there was nothing more than some light mauling ,but it was touch and go for a while. If that Rhinestone Cowboy hadn't appeared from nowhere, and been chased out the Moot House, it would have been much worse.

Anyway, it's all over now.  We're all sitting in the Dining Room, drinking soup in our pyjamas. I've got asparagus. Which is an odd flavour for pyjamas.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

If Clergy Ads Told the Full Story

The "Bloodletting Benefice" seeks a House for Duty Priest.

Basically we need you to do a full time job. Patting the hands of those needing comfort. Refereeing the internecine warfare at PCCs. Running the four building projects that are going at any one time. But cheaper.

The Benefice has 7 parishes with no interest in working together. Which means you get to take seven services every week. Forget having "Everyone Together" services every month. The last incumbent tried that. Lost an eye to a well-aimed hymn book.

You may be a priest reaching the end of your career in an urban parish, dreaming of Dibley. We'll happily put you out of your misery.

And don't imagine you'll be able to cycle from appointment to appointment between parishes like you're Father Bloody Brown or something. You'll need a decent set of wheels to get round the place. Ideally a 4x4 as it can get a bit treacherous in winter. And just because even the snow plough can't get through is no excuse when Doris is expecting 8am communion.

There is a Church of England school in the benefice. Unfortunately, the head teacher is an ardent Dawkinsian with a pathological hatred of people in dog collars.

Obviously we're looking for a dedicated visionary, able to energise our mission and enable outreach to the community. We just can't afford to pay for it.

You will find this a rewarding and fulfilling end to your life. Sorry, career. Career.

An Injustice : Count Arthur Strong

Is it not the purpose of those of us who see a better future, a new world, a new hope, to speak truth to power? Today I am prepared to speak prophetically to oppose an injustice.

The BBC have decided they will not do another series of Count Arthur Strong on the TV.

For those who have not seen it, the Count is the funniest thing the BBC has produced in years. Brilliantly written, with characters as lovely as they are surreal.

The relationship between Arthur and Michael is as old as the hills - a straight riff on the Steptoe / Harold or Del Boy / Rodney theme. The older man's self-centredness constantly frustrating the younger one's attempts to find happiness. The relationship between Michael and Sinem is utterly baffling.  What, we ask ourselves, does the geeky, shy, balding Michael possibly see in intelligent, dark-eyed, funny, outgoing Sinem? While Eggy, John, Birdy, Bulent are a fine bunch of supporting characters.

The Count himself is an ineffable force of nature. Incoherent, self-important, utterly unaware of the chaos he sows around him. The incident where the gang are in a car in a lion enclosure at the safari park - where the car is on fire - is one of my favourite moments on TV. You'll have to watch it. If the BBC ever repeat it.

So I repeat. This is an utter injustice. The Count is no more, while Mary Berry gets another bloody cooking show. A light has passed from our lives. It may never be lit again.

I may need to organise a soupover to get over this.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Why Lazy Comics aren't very Funny about Religion

Tez Ilyas making some really good points. If anybody saw Marcus Brigstocke a couple of years ago - this is exactly what Tez Ilyas is talking about

Help for Heroes Fund Raising Plug

This month I'll be pointing you in the direction of two good causes. Of course being loyal followers of this blog you'll already be giving generously to various godly works. But should you be looking for somewhere to put a few quid to help others....

At the August Bank Holiday we will be encouraging people to contribute to  (or at least follow) Graham Hartland's "Not Greenbelt" virtual festival in aid of the Big Issue Foundation.

Burton Dasset did consider it, but realised he'd probably pass out after 30 miles. So if you can help, thanks.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Called to the Regions

As the Bishop of Burnley suggests that Church of England ministers are "called" to places with trendy coffee shops in the south of England, we ask the important questions:

  • Why has a bishop who was previously a vicar in Camden presented all of London like it's posh?
  • Who can afford trendy coffee on a Church of England stipend?
  • Apart from utter saints, who wouldn't prefer to serve a parish where you don't get the vicarage burgled every Friday?
  • Why is everybody in the Church of England so posh?
But to help every ordinand or curate reaching the end of their training with selecting their calling, we're happy to present this map of England.  Hoping it helps.

London: Check the Postcode. E Mids: Towns are OK. East Anglia: Huge benefices. W Mids: Brummies. Southern England: quite nice. South West; Called to retirement North: Working Class People NE: Too far. No data.

Deepening the Anglican Divide

Thanks to Sara Batts on Twitter for pointing out the lead picture in this Guardian article, "First Same Sex Marriage Deepens Anglican Divide", has more depth than a Magic Eye picture.

The first thing you think is that the two good-looking chaps are meant to be the happy couple. Then you realise that this is the sub-editor's little joke, you're meant to think that, and it's actually the Archbishop of Canterbury and a fellow bishop.

Then you hope they aren't holding those crosses up in the hope of repelling gay people, on the assumption they are like vampires. After all, there's been some pretty odd assumptions made about gay people over the years.

Then you wonder why Justin Welby has a shorter cross than everyone else.

And then you figure you should stop reading too much into out of context photos.

But still. GafCon is kindly sending a bishop to Scotland in an attempt to keep marriage heterosexual. I'm not sure what this activity would entail - setting up a small, evangelical sect of disaffected members of the Episcopal Church might be highly effective in terms of making a noise and getting publicity, while simultaneously letting the Piskies get on with things. While creeping into Episcopalians' bedrooms late at night to check their marriages are indeed heterosexual - maybe handing out something like an MOT certificate - is a bit extreme.

Mind, the Scottish nation would probably appreciate having a breakaway Protestant church, for the novelty. As it's not something they've ever had before.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's language is interesting however. He says the problem is "intractable." The Cambridge dictionary defines that as being difficult or impossible to solve. If the former I suppose that some more talking reasonably, while people ordain alternative bishops in the UK, might be an option. If the latter, I suggest a letter from the Western churches to GafCon saying "love you but can't live with you." Even heterosexual marriages can break down.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

A Druidic Dynasty

Congratulations to Charlii and Keith as they are expecting a brother or sister to Celestine

If it's a girl they're going for Caroline. If a boy, either Terry or Elvis.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Leaving of London: Peak Guardian

And so the end of days feel we have laboured with these two years becomes all too real as we face the terrible fact that the population of London is decreasing.

And there are many reasons why. London is hideously expensive. You have to sell a limb to buy a decent gin and tonic. The property bubble is leaving acres of empty prime apartments. To live in Central London you have to be either a multi millionaire or seriously poor. There is a tendency for companies to move out.  And Brexit will lose us City jobs and EU agencies.

But the Guardian has identified a lack of culture. Because if you have a choice between spending 2 million for a house in Highgate, or an eighth that in Leicestershire, the thing that makes the difference is whether the Corbynist Mime Collective is still going in Camden.
Near Regents Park, an outside pulpit costs £1,000 per week to rent

Apparently 400 venues have closed in London. Well nightclubs and their attenders are plummeting rapidly.  I mean, obviously the sorts of people that attend nightclubs tend to plummet - mostly around 3am when they lose control of their heels. But they're not even going to the trouble of all that pre-drinking, queueing up, fighting off harrassment and dancing round handbags. In Taunton for instance, both nightclubs have had to abandon their strict "no agricultural smocks" rules in the face of declining attendance.

The conclusion of the article, of course, is not that if only we had more independent breakfast shops and Taiwanese dance collectives, London would not be draining population. No, turns out the real solution is to get more livable property prices. Funny that. Turns out it's not culture at all.

The Guild of Obstructionists

Received the inevitable letter from the Guild of Obstructionists about my proposed changes to the Moot House. Apparently that Dali painting of the Crucifixion is "a much-loved image that to many is the most important focus within the Moot House. It is important that we preserve the Moot House as it has been loved for generations.

The fact that Young Keith only put the picture up last Tuesday has been somewhat glossed over.

This being the 9th Moot House since 2006 - its predecessors having been accidentally blown up during acts of unwisely creative worship - that is ignored too.

They're a smelly bunch, the Guild of Obstructionists. I don't say this to be rude. It's just they won't even change their underwear without a series of meetings, a public enquiry, and the go-ahead from the Victorian Society.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Stonehenge Wilts - But Somerset Shines

Willerby have announced the best and worst counties and regions to retire to.

Leaving aside that I've no idea what Willerby do, I was fascinated to see their bigging up of the beautiful region of the South West - home of so many Beaker relics.

Beaker relics, Somerset Museum

But I think Willerby are overdoing it with this bit of salepersonship:

"Home to sandy beaches, the great Dartmoor moorlands and the prehistoric Stonehenge monument, it was the South West of England who came out on top in our analysis."

Stonehenge is in Wiltshire, of course. And Wiltshire came... erm...6th worst as a county. Not as bad as Bedfordshire, it has to be said. But still. You can't big up a whole region on the basis of a feature that's in a county that is letting the whole region down.
Stonehenge - Nice, but would you retire here? There's no roof.

But then .I just don't see that Stonehenge is an attraction to living somewhere. How often can you see it before you get bored? Let's face it, even the Beaker Folk only went there once a year.

So my suggestion is this. Based on Willerby's analysis, the best bet is to live in Somerset.

And then just nip over the border to see Stonehenge once a year or so.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Evening Service for Yorkshire Day

Hymn: Ilkley Moor Baht 'At

Archdruid: And so we mark the end of this Yorkshire Day by hitting mini Yorkshire Puddings with a stick of rhubarb.

Geoffrey Boycott: My nan could do that.

Archdruid: And release the Scape Whippet.

All: Aah.

Archdruid: Which is full of Yorkshire Sin.

All: Boooo.

Archdruid: Such as mocking the ancient Yorkshire gods, Earnshaw and Sam.

Earnshaw: I'll be shaping up at midnight on Ilkley Moor wi' sensible walking boots.

Archdruid: Or going to London.

Billy Fisher: A man could lose himself in London, Mr Shadrach. Loooooooooose himself.

Ghost of Keith Waterhouse: That'll be £74.22 for royalties.

Reading from the Prophet Bickerdyke

Archdruid: And so as we down our Tetley's Yorkshire Bitter

All: Brewed in Northampton

Archdruid: We remember all the things Yorkshire has given us

All: Poverty, smugness, terrifying women and hopeless blokes who get drunk at the weekend to recover from the awfulness of their daily lives.
A Yorkshire Shrine

Hymn: "Woollen mills of your mind" (Roy Clarke)

Archdruid: And so we push the Oldest Man downhill in a bath tub.

Hnaef: Am I really the oldest?

Archdruid: No. But you really are the most idealistic, which is how we got you in there.

Hnaef: By eck.

The Yorkshire Creed

All: Hear all, see all, say nowt,
Eat all, drink all, pay nowt.
And if ever tha does owt fer nowt
Always do it fer th'sen.

Hymn: Wuthering Heights

Monday, 31 July 2017

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Shepherds and Salespeople

Interesting article from Angela Tilby on the difference between the popular priests of fiction - in "Broken" and "Rev"  - as opposed to the missional model currently being promoted by the HTB style of bishop. I'm being a bit shorthandy and imprecise here, I realise, but I'm a busy archdruid and we've the entrails of a frozen chicken to inspect at Filling up of Beakers, so I'm not going to qualify everything I just wrote. Just assume I'm being a bit broad brush on the "HTB" and we'll be fine.
Rev Timothy Farthing of "Dad's Army"
No longer a suitable candidate

Mind you, so is Angela Tilby. Maybe the reason the vicars in those programmes are so attractive is because that's what the writers want to make attractive. That's what fiction writers do. They write from a position, with an angle. They aren't presenting the world as it necessarily is. If the cafe church people are a bit queasy-making: is that what cafe church people are? Or is that simply because the writer wants us to feel sorry for Smallbone, in his vulnerability and general uselessness? And bear in mind that non-churchgoers tend to meet ministers in counselling / wedding / funeral situations, not when they're in a thought shower blue-sky-ing the latest missionary strategy.

Another recent Church Times article suggests that for churches to grow, you need leaders (if I can use that broad-brush term) who are risk-takers, strategists, and collaborative thinkers.

So if I were to be particularly vague and provocative - and why not, it's a social media world, after all - it appears the Church selects people who are introverted feelers; trains them in a way suitable for introverted thinkers; gets best results from extroverted thinkers; while Angela Tilby and today's TV viewers would like them to be a vulnerable mess with a strong suit in approachability and counselling.

Religious Ministers. Failing to be what people want since 30AD.

Sighs too Deep for Words

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 
And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:26-39)

Got stuck on the M1 yesterday. There was a crash between 13 and 14. Everything southbound was held up as they cleared the cars and debris from two lanes and got everything on the hard shoulder. Everything northbound was held up as people did so much rubbernecking, they brought the carriageway to a halt. All in all, everybody had an extra 40 minutes on their journey. I'll be honest. The feeling I had after half an hour that my life was at an end was a bit of an over-reaction. You know, despair is not designed for dealing with 40 minute delays. But we tend to do that, don't we?

Paul was writing out of a situation which we don't face. Sporadic persecutions, occasional legal - or illegal action that ended in the deaths of Christians. He's hunted from time to time, beaten with sticks, stoned. And not in a good way.

And yet he writes in this passage from Romans about God's closeness to us. And God's closeness in three different ways. But of course, God being triune, the three ways work constantly together.

First the Spirit. We don't all have fancy words for prayer. We can't all write collects for the Church of England for a living. And you know some people can pray for hours without ever getting much beyond "we just really want to say we loved you." And some are in such despair that all they can do is cry. But those who are Christians have the Spirit to do the praying with and for us. The Spirit searches our hearts - finds our deepest prayers - and takes them to the Father in prayers beyond our prayers.

Now this is really good news. After all, the Spirit inspired the Psalms. So the Spirit is really good at prayer. If what the Father needs to hear from you is a really well-crafted prayer, the Spirit can do that for you. If all you can manage are sobs, or silence, or tongues, the Spirit will wrap that into a tapestry of prayer for God - too profound for the human heart to utter. With sighs too deep for words.

And then Jesus, the Son of God. That Jesus who lived on earth for us. Who died for us. Who knows what it is to be a human - who carries our frailty, who inhabited our weaknesses. Who died and rose again.

That Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and sticks his oar in for us. He's not just up in heaven looking serene and counting angels. Which are countless anyway. So he'd be wasting his time. If time were even a thing in heaven. But I digress.

But if you're thinking God has deserted you - you're feeling a long way off - if you're thinking you've deserted God - Jesus is there for you. Not dragging you along like you're living out the famous tea towel, "Footprints." But saying to his Father - "yes, she's angry. But she's tired. Yes he's in a dark place. We need to be there with him. She's under pressure - she's suffering persecution or just being pressured or harassed or ridiculed for being part of God's family - she's being made in my image."

God can seem a long way off. For all of us, Christians, unbelievers or others - it's easy to assume we are just hopeless, lost. That things are meaningless. I loved Frankie Boyle's definition of us as a bunch of slightly evolved monkeys, clinging to a dying rock. Which is, after all, true. But deep in the image that God gave us, the image of Jesus into which we are constantly being renewed, we keep hearing whispers that that's not all we are.

Whatever we may think, whatever our perspective. Whether we're high on God's love or our own genius, or deep in a mental or spiritual hole, nothing can separate us from God's love. That jealous, anxious, worrying, forgiving, embracing, open love that forgives everything and hopes everything. Like a parent over a sickly child, or one waiting for their son or daughter to come home long after time - like the prodigal's father who looks from the window and runs to see his child - that's how the love of God is.

Paul writes from the point of view of a persecuted church, and he could think the world's against him and God has forgotten them. But instead he pushes on to share the Gospel, well aware that if you follow Jesus's path, it leads to a cross.

And he does it because he knows what the Spirit wants to bring to us, what Jesus enthroned at the side of Majesty constantly prays for, what the whole Trinity works together to give us:

Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Independent - Can we Really Trust it as a Source of Ultimate Truth?

Thanks to Mike Peatman, who has reminded me that there was a previous Independent article, by Lucy Pasha-Johnson, in which the truth of the Bible was doubted on the grounds that King Solomon's Mines have never been found.

King Solomon's Mines is a book by Rider Haggard.  Not a book of the Bible.  I can see how the Independent and its weirdly ahistorical researcher friends might get confused.

According to the Bible, Solomon was very rich. But according to the Independent's expert, "Successive generations of theologians and archaeologists have scoured the Holy Land looking for his capital city, palace, temple and wealth without any success."

Here's some clues. The capital city was Jerusalem. It's on the map and I believe you can even visit it. The temple was destroyed, and then rebuilt. It's under the Al Aqsa mosque - feel free to ask if you want to excavate it. His palace was made of cedar, so it's probably burned down or rotted by now. It was in the middle of a city that has been continuously rebuilt for 3,000 years, so good luck with the post holes. And his fabulous wealth? Apparently all the gold had been replaced with bronze, and that was even before the Babylonians destroyed the city and the temple and took away everything of wealth.

If you're looking for Solomon's wealth, it ain't in Israel. And if you're looking for King Solomon's Mines, they're not in the Bible.

If you want some sensible archaeology or biblical history, don't waste your time with the Independent.

The Independent: Wrong on a 3,000 Year Old News Story

I mean, goodness knows it's hard enough, with the lack of finance, for papers to get breaking stories right.

But hats off to Ian Johnston in the Independent, who's managed to get a 3,000 year old story wrong. Despite the story being clearly written down in a document called "The Book of Joshua".

According to the Independent, the Bible says that all the Canaanites were wiped out by the invading Hebrews. And the fact that people living today are descended from Canaanites proves the Bible wrong.

Except that's not what the Bible says. By the end of the Book of Joshua, despite all Joshua's genocide, the Gibeonites are still alive having conned the Hebrews. In Judges we discover Canaanites being subject to forced labour rather than slaughtered. The Jebusites apparently held onto Jerusalem until King David conquered it - and even then they were forced to serve, not annihilated.

So it appears the Canaanites hung about, even in the formed Canaan. But what makes the article less credible even than that, is that the DNA the investigators used to compare to modern Lebanese people was from remains uncovered in Sidon.

That's right. Sidon. The Phoenecian city. Now the Phoenicians may or may not have been Canaanites. But they certainly weren't living in an area where the Hebrews were slaughtering and taking over. And when Jesus goes to the "Land of Tyre and Sidon", he meets a Syrophonecian woman. Who is apparently completely unaware that, according to the Independent, her ancestors had all been wiped out and she doesn't exist.

I guess the moral of the story is this. " People living today descended from people living in the same place in the past" is interesting but not a big story. "Science proves Bible is Wrong" - now that's click bait.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

50th Anniversary of the Decriminalization of Something We'd Rather Not Think About

Statement from the Druidical Synod

So obviously we're glad that 50 years ago something we'd rather not think about was decriminalized.

We're not going to dwell too much on the thing we'd rather not think about.

But, you know - we're all sinners aren't we?

Some moderately adjust their tax returns.

Some say words they regret. Rude words we won't repeat.

Others might slightly exceed the speed limit or maybe, let's face it, park where they shouldn't and hope they get out of the shop before the traffic warden notices they're on a double yellow

And some people do things we'd rather not think about.

And obviously it's good they're not illegal any more.

But we'd still rather not think about them.

We'll just randomly say 'sin' again. No reason.

Response from Beaker Mainstream

Obviously it's right that the thing we'd rather not think about is not illegal.

But in saying they're glad the thing we'd rather not think about is illegal, the Druidic Synod missed off a load of other things that aren't actually illegal but are definitely sins.

Sins. Sins. Sins.

There's a lot of sin about isn't there? If only the Druidic Synod had noticed.

I love saying "sin", don't you?


In Parables #notgb17

I was thinking about that bit where Jesus tells his disciples the explanations to parables, but "the crowds" only get half a story.

And I realised for the first time (for I'm a little dim) that the two groups don't have a Donald Trump style wall between them. These groups aren't as Lazarus and Dives who have a gulf set between them. Rather, they're potentially dynamic. Someone wanting to know the second half doesn't need to sit in eternal darkness, wondering who the goats are or what darnel represents. They just have to move themselves from the outside to the inside group. Then they can have the explanation.

Which goes against 50+ years of Church making itself accessible by simplifying; of dumbing our theology to God as our dad and Jesus as our boyfriend. Of simple theology and burying mystery and hard stuff. Of floating paper hearts in paddling pools at All Souls when we should be considering the Fear of Israel and praying we are saved from the wrath to come. We can just put things in our own way, half-explained. And if people want to know more they can ask

To that end, this year's Beaker Folk stream at #notgb17 will be "Preach the Gospel. And don't worry if they don't understand it." The keynote speaker will be Drayton, who will be speaking on the hymn "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood." Vespers will be in the Syriac tradition. And in keeping with this conceal/reveal model of parables, people proving by their donations that they are true believers will receive an English translation.

Just giving page for #notgb17 in aid of Big Issue Foundation

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Vicars are Revolting

Gavin Ashenden, formerly one of 783 or so chaplains to the Queen, is threatening a "Vicar Rebellion" against assorted wrong things - according to the Telegraph.

But 23 clergy of some kind is hardly a "rebellion". That's more on the level of a minor upset at a chapter tea party. What's the collective term for a small number of upset clergy? A schismette?

Let's face it, Reverend G and his 22 friends ain't gonna 'hold the streets" in the worst clergy riots since the Popish Plot.

The article quotes the Revd Dr Sanlon of Tunbridge Wells. It doesn't say he is "disgusted". But I bet he is.

Still, I'm now anxiously awaiting them to drive some tanks in appropriate liturgical colours on Synod.

"What do we want?"

"Traditional Biblical sexual morality."

"When do we want it?"


Leaning Into God

Today's Big Topic in the Moot House: "Leaning into God - What does it mean if we fall over?"

Leaks in the Church

A Folkstone Church discovers the cause of its leaky roof - a World War II bullet.

Worth watching to wonder why it didn't occur to the congregation at the time - there being a war one. But I suppose they could have been distracted by the Home Guard amusingly getting caught up in the bell ropes while shouting "Don't Panic".

Which reminds me - for those of Anglo-Catholic persuasion especially  - isn't the verger's attitude towards the vicar spot on in its portrayal? And shouldn't it have been stamped out back then?

I digress. The piece also has a niche bit of subtitling failure, as "flèche" gets rendered "flesh". You just can't find a subtitler with an interest in church architecture when you need one.

But it does remind me of when we had a similar problem with leaks. Took us months to find out the source. Then it turned out to be Denzyl on the Pastoral Committee, sharing what he shouldn't down the White Horse. We soon plugged that.

Monday, 24 July 2017

"Any Answers" - the Nation Speaks

Anita Anand: Welcome to "Any Answers". And we have a call from Eloise from Ealing.

Eloise: Hello, Anita

Anita: Eloise, you had something to say about the changes to the pension age for women?

Eloise: Yes. I'm just the age that will suffer from the latest Government change. And I think it shouldn't apply to me. It should affect people slightly older.

Anita: Thanks, Eloise. Anything else?

Eloise: Yes. I think people named after songs by The Damned should get extra pensions.

Anita Thanks.  And now we've got Arthur from Acton.

Arthur: Hello, Anita. I'm in Acton. And I've noticed that houses in Acton are more expensive than those in Herefordshire or parts of Alfreton.

Anita: OK Arthur. So what should happen to deal with this?

Arthur: I suggest a massive subsidy for people in Acton, to restore the balance.

Anita: Thanks Arthur.  Rodney from Rockingham?

Rodney: Like all the people in Rockingham I live on a hill.

Anita: So what do you think the Government should do about this, Rodney?

Rodney: Oh, nothing. I just thought the nation deserved to hear my beautifully modulated tones and incisive analysis.

**** Nation turns to Radio 5 and wishes the football season had started again ****

Service Commemorating the Obsolescence of Microsoft Paint

Archdruid: Woe are we. For the simple tool for drawing is no more.

All: What shall we do? Where shall we go?

Archdruid: No more shall we make graven images.

All: And save them in a variety of poor-quality formats.

Archdruid: For we don't want to pay for Photoshop.

All: And we don't like googling "GIMP", though it is free, because it's hard to pick the right page without having to wipe out our browser history afterwards.

Archdruid: How shall I tweak images just enough that they still look roughly like they're supposed to, but not so much I get in copyright trouble?

Trekkies: How shall we spend hours creating detailed pictures of the Starship Enterprise, one pixel at a time?

All: Don't you lot all have Macs?

Trekkies: Oh yeah. Good point. Just ignore us.

All: We usually do.

Archdruid: And so shall I resort to creating pictures in Powerpoint.

Charlii: And exporting them as PNGs.

Archdruid: Or JPGs.

Charlii: Or GIFs.

Archdruid: Or WMFs.

All: Enough of the different image formats already!

Trekkies: Actually, we think you'll find JPGs are as dead as DVDs.

All: We thought we were supposed to ignore you?

Trekkies: Oops.

All: Isn't your "Paint Gravestone" just the same idea as the BBC one only not as good?

Archdruid: Yeah, I copied it then changed it a bit...

All: avoid getting done for copyright.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Church of England - Ahead of the BBC since 2013

The BBC has announced its salaries, and it is apparent that it systematically pays women less than men for their "talent".

There are some valid objections you could make and they go like this:

"Talent at the BBC gets paid too much" - you could make this argument, and the counter to it is that the BBC is competing in a market where it needs to pay what is appropriate. You can choose which is right - you could argue (in my opinion rightly) that I could read an autocue just as well as the average BBC newsreader. But there's a counter to it.

"The men at the BBC should be paid less, not the women more" - you may be right, see my comments about the market, above.

"Nurses deserve more than Charlie from Casualty" - you may be right, but we can't afford to pay them it. There's thousands of nurses and only one Charlie from Casualty.

"It's wrong that men should earn more than women for doing the same job." Yeah, that's unarguable. Consder this. The Church of England pays women bishops the same as men bishops. They pay women priests the same as men priests. More women are Self-Supporting, which opens up all sorts of disussion, and there's still catching up to do in numbers for bishops, but for the same job, men and women get paid the same. Likewise the Methodists and the URC. And the Methodists have been ahead for years. I'm sure that once the Catholics have a woman as Pope, she'll get paid the same as the male Pope.

The BBC, in short - that bastion of equality, progressiveness, fairness and all the rest - is way behind the churches. Just as it was behind the Anglicans (and miles behind the Methodists) in having a female bishop / superintendent / Time Lord. The Church of England - ahead of the BBC in equality since 2013.

Reasons why the Congregation is so Small Bingo

You may be a visiting preacher, you may be a visiting worshipper, or you may be the Bishop of Little Brickhill.  But one thing you can be sure. Wherever you go to church, the congregation size will be, according to the welcomer, vicar or steward, a bit smaller than could normally be expected.

Well, if you're a regular visitor you'll need something to relieve the sense of wondering why the congregations all seem to be avoiding you. So feel free to take this cut-out-and-keep "Reasons why the Congregation is so Small Bingo". When you have five in a line, shout "Half Empty House of God!" 

They’ve all gone away for the summer holidays It’s First Sunday. People do other things on First Sunday It’s pet service this afternoon  so they’re all busy grooming their animals There’s a lot of colds about at the minute It’s a Benefice combined communion. So nobody comes. Joan’s in hospital* The kids these days don’t come because of football They’ve all gone to Blackpool + It’s too hot It’s cheaper to go away after the summer holidays They’re digging up Church Lane and you’ve got to park in Church Close Kids these days just play on their Playstation X-box Ninjatendos They’ve all gone away before the summer holidays It’s the All Age Service Green Belt this weekend All the young ones are at Soul Survivor There’s a lot of hay fever about at the minute They all discovered Tinder last week It’s too cold These days we’re competing with Sunday morning telly It’s raining It’s a baptism so they all went to the 8am The children are away at camp It’s High Mass It’s Parade Service at the other church There’s a lot of bubonic plague about at the minute  It’s snowing They’ve heard the sermon before It’s Spring Harvest. So the Easter Day service is a bit dead They’ve all died.

* Replace "Joan" with "Elsie" as appropriate
+ Or appropriate nearby holiday location. Especially appropriate in residential retirement home communions.

"Bossy Woman"

Quite an evening yesterday as Marston Moretaine, at our Micro-Moot, said he was fed up with Charlii being "bossy".

Naturally Charlii asked for specific evidence as to bossiness.  Which Marstone told us was a specific example of bossiness. Took us quite a long while till we found out what he really meant.

When I say quite a long while, I mean: until now.

Turns out that when Marston said Charlii was "bossy", he meant she has opinions which she is prepared to support with reasoned argument.

We've had to put him in for re-training. This could take a while.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Gather them in Barns to be Burnt

Bad news for Young Keith, as just in time I discover his planned physical illustration of tomorrow's Gospel of the wheat and the weeds.

I mean, full marks to him for planning ahead and planting so long ago - to make the illustration so much more realistic.

Again, well done for bringing it bang up to date: a contemporary twist that maybe some people could relate to.

And full marks for creating a fully interactive event that everybody could take part in.

But "The Cannabis and the Tomato Plants"?  I'm sorry. It's not gonna happen.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Cod Only Knows : The Guardian Reader's Conscience

The Guardian asks the all important question - can we eat cod with a clear conscience?

And I guess the thing is, if you're the Guardian there's actually nothing you can encourage your readers to do with a clear conscience. Or there would be no point being the Guardian. No food is clean enough, no relationship good enough, no attitudes progressive enough to have a clear conscience. If the Guardian were around when Jesus fed the hungry by miraculously  multiplying fish and bread, Polly Toynbee would have  popped up to tell him that the bread was not accredited GMO-free, and asked why Jesus hadn't handed it all over to the Roman authorities for more equitable distribution. George Monbiot would write an article complaining that the uncontrolled disposal of fish bones was artificially changing the fertility of the local soil.

Then Andrew Brown would write that, while clearly the whole loaves and fishes thing was fictional, Jesus was using the miracle to distract our attention from the pressing need for a more inclusive 1st Century Church.

This among a load of dating ads for "Rich men looking for slave girls/boys."

So no of course you can't eat cod with a clear conscience. You can't do anything with a clear conscience. The law of unintended consequences means there will always be some downside, that you can't imagine, that the Guardian will make you feel bad about later.

But still, bright side. You may not have a clear conscience. But at least you'll know you're still morally superior to the people who don't read the Guardian.

Extraordinary Form of Worship

For real traditionalist Beaker Folk, we're pleased to say that tonight's Filling up of Beakers will be in the "Extraordinary Form." We've heard this is quite popular these days.

We're hoping we're on the right tracks here. Hnaef and Burton will be leading from inside a pantomime unicorn costume. Keith will be juggling guinea pigs. And Charlii will be using a cane to encourage the congregation to respond in a more holy manner.

We reckon that's pretty Extraordinary.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Any Port in a Storm: At the Sandemanian Meeting House

Now, don't get me wrong. It was nice of the Sandemanians to invite me to their meeting last night. Bit of ecumenism.

But it was a bit dull. I spent all night wondering when the Port would come out. Maybe that's only for their full members.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Collect for the Bicentenary of the Death of Jane Austen

God, who first set Jane Austen to work in what was thought to be a man's field: park, we pray, all our pride and prejudice, and so set our minds that we may in all places - whether South or North, hangar, abbey, dress shop, wood house or wherever we may work, use both sense and sensibility in the persuasion of all peoples to be as witty as Jane Austen, as clever as her heroines  (except Fanny Price - she's a drip) and as honourable as Mr Darcy. Not the one in Bridget Jones. The real one.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Gallifreyan Synod Report

The motion that the Doctor should be able to be a female (or vice versa) was passed on an electronic vote by houses. Two-thirds majorities were achieved in each house of the Gallifreyan Synod.

It was recommended that, if the Doctor should be able to transition from male to female, a liturgy should be available. The Supreme Council to be asked to consider whether a liturgy should be provided. Something ironic about more radical changes to the Doctor's anatomy than normal would be suitable.

Some complaints were raised that not enough theology was done before agreeing the Doctor could be female. It was suggested that the issue be kicked into the long grass for a few years in order for the subject to be discussed in more detail. Perhaps by letting Richard Ayoade be Doctor for a while.

The Gallifreyan Anti Feminisation Convention has announced that they will appoint a male Flying Doctor. Who will, by definition, be Australian.

The Daily Male has said that it's not the appointment of a female Doctor. It's more that now is not the right time. He doesn't know what the right time is. But it's not now.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

On a Male Doctor

Apparently the TV Series "Doctor Who" has appointed a new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, who is a woman.

I of course stopped watching the series when it became clear that the writers, entire cast, all the characters and most of the aliens were gay. Indeed some of the aliens were of no obvious gender at all. The so-called "Cybermen", for instance, would be more accurately described as "Cyber-eunuchs", they having no genitalia and therefore, for this reason alone, would be unacceptable in the Old Testament Temple. In the new dispensation, they might be accepted - they are emotionless androids who want everyone to be like them, but then nobody is perfect to start with. And they might fit into some church congregations I know on that basis. Or, indeed, become pastors.

However now the worst of all things has happened. It has been announced that the new Doctor will in fact be a woman!

We have to consider the sheer failure of imagination involved in this. If the Doctor is a woman, how can she represent all of us? She will always be a woman-alien, and I cannot see how she will be saving the world on my behalf in that chromosomal configuration. No, the world she saves will be for women only.

Unable to enter the Assembly of the Lord (Deut 23:1)

And let us consider that a woman is wholly unsuited to the demands of space travel. Emotionally unstable, she will be liable to wipe out entire civilisations just because she can. Like the War Doctor did. But because it is her week when she is liable to irrational behaviour - not because destroying the Time Lords and Daleks in a massive conflagration is the right, considered thing to do.

And that very title leads onto the next problem. I suppose the next thing that will happen is that the BBC will be renaming the Time Lords to be the Time Ladies. The next thing you know, there will be a female Master. And imagine the damage that could be caused by an evil genius alien who is also capable of wrapping impressionable males round her little finger. Honestly, how can the males of the universe be safe in these circumstances?

Dedicated Whovians react to the announcement

Make no mistake. I have not watched this so-called entertainment for years.  And from now on, I am not going to be watching it again. Until the BBC reinstates a straight, male doctor with a straight, much younger, female assistant in a Biblical but slightly unnerving relationship, I will not reconsider.

Note: I showed Eileen an early draft of this post, and she started to laugh at the title and could not be made to stop, charm I never so wisely. I still cannot see what she finds so funny. I think the strains of her role - female as she is - may be getting to her. Maybe she should let a man do her job.

Cybermen: (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,

Fields of Gold

Still suffering the fallout from this morning's "Seeds and Sower Service".

You're gonna reap what you sow
Gladwell had such a creative idea to recreate the parable of the seed and sower, in a real field. Maybe doing it in the style of Theresa May, and tearing through a field of nearly-ripe barley, was not her greatest idea however. Especially followed by 50 Beaker Folk, all skipping through the crop while shouting "we want to be those seeds for you, Lord!"

The sound of a shotgun being unleashed above their heads in its turn sowed quite a lot of panic. Quite a lot of stubbed toes and nettle scratches as they panicked and ran through the hedge and into the brook.

We're now having a special collection to repay a few hundred pounds worth of crop damage. Though Charlii is taking a certain amount of grim amusement from applying TCP to wounds. The parable seems to be, if you skip through somebody else's crops, you will pay a heavy reckoning. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Feast of Saint Swithun

Hnaef: Was that a drop?

Daphne: No, don't think so. Oh what's that?

All: A rain drop?

Celestine: Wain dwop!

All: Aaah. Sweet.

Charlii: No, not a wain dwop.

Young Keith: Oh! What was that on my back?

Charlii: Let's just say the pigeon was glad to get rid of it.

Young Keith: Nnnng.

Archdruid: OK. What's going on.

All: Checking for rain! For if it's wet today it will rain for...

Charlii: Forty days.

Daphne: Thirty days?

Hnaef: I think you will find it says in the original Anglo-Saxon....

Archdruid: You do, Beowulf Boy, and I'll turn the riot hose on you.

All: But what's the problem?

Archdruid: It's unscientific, silly legend. And I'd planned to take next week off. And I don't want to know it's gonna rain all week.

Hnaef: Well, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

Archdruid: Hang on, what was that? I felt a drop....

Friday, 14 July 2017

Celebrity Theology

Someone I hadn't heard of apparently approved of equal marriage.

And now he doesn't.

I don't care whether a celebrity Christian (who I'd never heard of till yesterday) believes in equal marriage, or has changed his mind. Because it doesn't matter. If I made my mind up based on what celebrities said I'd change my name to Kardashian and have been eating Steve Cram's favourite breakfast cereal since 1986.

Sure, listen to other people. Sure, weigh their views. But never care what famous people think, just because they're famous. You'll find another famous person to think they're wrong. And they're probably both wrong anyway.

You've got a mind. Use it. And don't just use it because I say so.

Even if I am right.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Liturgy of No British People Being Left in Wimbledon Singles

Archdruid: Well, they're all out.

All: Even the Scottish one?

Archdruid: Yep.

All: And the Australian one?

Archdruid: Yep. She's out as well.

Nigel Farage: Would never have been in, if I'd had my way.

Archdruid: You here again?

NF: Rather! Under my rules, a Brit would win Wimbledon every year. A proper Brit, from a British background, born in Britain.

Archdruid: Get out.

NF: That's normally my line.

Nathan Hits Twitter

Hot on the heels of the news that the "OurCofE" account is taking a break, Revd Nathan of Great Tremlett has set up his own account.

Revelations so far are that he doesn't believe in God, and he lives on Hula Hoops. @NotTheCofE. Telling it as it is.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Facebook Theme of the Day

Sunday: Kittens

Monday: Hoax hackers

Tuesday: Food scares

Wednesday: Petitions

Thursday: Love Island

Friday: Shots and cocktails

Saturday: Hangover Cures

Cut and Paste: Do not Share

Reading Sally's comments on the Jayden K Smith friendship request hoax. And I have to say I don't agree with Sally. This is not an uncommon experience, and there's no hard feelings. I don't think we agree on most things, so that's fine.

Sally's take on people sharing this sort of scare is that it comes down to vulnerability. The fear that someone could steal one's Facebook account and start "Like"-ing Ed Sheeran, for instance, on our behalf is a very real one, in this day and age. And we should not take it lightly. Frankly, if singing Galway Girl isn't some very real sense a form of treason, it should be. But I digress.

I guess I'm not as kind as Sally. I don't see it as a sign of vulnerability. I see it as a kind of generalised sense of public duty, combined with a certain intellectual laziness. Through 360 and such like petition sights, through the RT'ing of the latest fool that things Jeremy Corbyn is the Messiah, we have grown used to the idea that we can change the world, if there's enough of us, without too much effort.

And so a scare story pops up that Archibold Nemesis, King of the Newt People, should he send you a friend request, will make you a Manchester United fan, hack all your friends and turn them all into newts, and give your wooden leg woodworm. And you feel - well, it could be true. You could check a hoax site, or give it some thought, but that would take effort. Or you could pass it on. The worst that could happen, in one isolated example, is that you've bothered a few friends with an untrue piece of advice. But should that friend request indeed pop through from King Archie, you'll have saved them a lot of embarrassment. So you send it on.

No effort, the instant warm feeling of protecting your friends. Who have received the same warning from 300 other lazy-but-vaguely-kindly people.

And I must add, as the sort of smug get who likes to tell people they're forwarding on spam, there's no fun telling them. I had a friend telling us to write and complain about a blasphemous play coming to England. I did the research (of course). I let him know that the play wasn't planned for England - had played a few years ago and nobody had noticed - and wasn''t even blasphemous. And his response? "Well, I'm glad I passed it on, anyway." And the virus of well-meaning laziness had spread again.

Do us a favour. Next time you get a warning, check. Then hideously embarrass the peson who passed it on in public. Then message all your friends telling them never to accept a friend request from said person, as s/he will only fill their inboxes with spurious messages.

And whatever you do, don't accept a friend request from Archibold Nemesis, King of the Newt People. He's a hacker. And you'll end up as a Man Utd supporting newt.

Monday, 10 July 2017

The Synod Vestments Vote: How the Markets Reacted

Chinos and catholicism soaring, lace falling sharply

As the clergy of the Church of England are allowed not to wear vestments to lead communion services, many of the evangelicals are asking themselves - what are vestments? And a few are wondering what a communion service is.

Meanwhile Alistair McHaffie told Synod that his father seldom left the house without wearing a tie. I'm hoping that's not all he wore. The 60s were a strange time.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Liturgy of Not Passing on Social Media Scares

Hymn One Shall Tell Another, and he Shall Tell his Friend

(Anthem to the tune of "Hallelujah Chorus")

Archdruid: Jayden K Smith

All: He's a hacker! He's a hacker!

Archdruid: Jayden K Smith

All: He's a hacker! He's a hacker!

Archdruid: They say if you accept his friend request he can also hack all your friends.

All: And their friends.

Archdruid: And their friends.

All: And infect them all with squirrel pox.

Archdruid: And steal your credit card numbers.

All: And delete your entire past life so you don't know who you are or what you're doing there. Like that bloke in Talking Heads.

Archdruid: And he's secretly a dolphin.

All: Which is why he's trying to corner the entire world mackerel supply, by taking Britain out of the Common Fisheries Policy. By becoming friends with Portugese fishermen.

Archdruid: Like a Fisherman's Friend.

All: But evil.

Archdruid: So please pass this on to all your friends.

All: And their friends.

Archdruid And their friends.

All: Even unto the friendtieth generation.

Hymn: O Snopes, Our Help In Ages Past

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Running of the Fools

Three men injured at the bull run in Pamplona. One man was gored in the scrotum. So he was lucky not to suffer serious brain damage.

It's a real moral challenge though. We bring up and cosset these uncontrollable, angry creatures,  basically only fit for breeding and fighting.

And then we let bulls chase after them.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Beaker Moot Agenda: Saturday

1. That this Moot demands the G20 recognises Beakerism as a world religion, having as it does more members than the Ba'hais.

2. That the people of Camden, having voted to Remain, should have their own referendum as to whether they should leave the EU, or whether street food should receive funding from the Arts Council

3. Something confusing about sex. The Archdruid will tell us what to do anyway. Hopefully without diagrams this time.

4. A demand that, in the light of the recent upsurge in antibiotic-resistant sexually transmitted diseases, Fisherman's Friend sweets should be used as a way of putting people off sex altogether.

5. Freedom for Tooting.

6. Quieter doors to be fitted in church halls.

7. The Government be asked to put extra funding into identifying who is the Lone Ranger.

Holland and Barrett Discount Scheme: One in a Million

Intrigued by Holland & Barrett's appearance in a list of the worse companies to work for. Then the penny dropped. If you'll excuse the obscure, multibuy-based joke.

At Xmas, H&B double the amount of discount they offer their staff, for products including their extensive homeopathy range.

Ridiculous thing to do. If they reduced staff discount to 0.000000000000001% the staff would all clearly be massively better off.

On the Wearing of Pointy Hats

Burton Dasset has questioned why I wear a pointy hat. Pointy hats, he points (haha) out, have been associated with oppression and social control since the Wicked Witch of the West.

But I believe Burton has pushed his case too far. After all, others have worn pointy hats without ever oppressing the inhabitants of Oz. The Pet Shop Boys and Grotbags, to name but two. What Burton has done is confuse the wearing of an item of clothing with a form of behaviour. To take an example, Doc Martins Boots can equally be worn by skinheads, IT project managers and female vicars from Wiltshire. And of those three, one only needs seriously to fear the latter.

So I will wear my pointy hat with style. For did St Kirsty herself not wear a pointy(ish) hat in the video for New England? I'm not trying to change the world. I'm just trying to keep the Beaker Folk under control.

Let Down at the Funeral

"Thousands may be let down by funeral plans", the BBC tells us. Which, ironically, is one of the services a funeral plan is supposed to provide.

People using these plans "could find their relatives faced extra costs after they died", says a consumer group. I would say that, in an earthly sense, that's pretty unlikely. The finding out, that is. Not the extra costs.

"Many customers buying such plans are elderly or vulnerable, and will not be around to check whether the product met their expectations, Fairer Finance said."

I think it's fair to say that all of them will not be around to check. But this is a serious issue despite the poor wording. As the article notes, these are financial products so should be policed appropriately. Or, failing that, there's always haunting?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Unbearable Brightness of Being

Quite a profound time of considering "God, the Universe, and Everything."

We thought of the death of stars bringing life as heavy elements were cast across the universe like thistledown. Of the yawning aeons of time before this world coalesced. Of the unimaginable depths of God's being, before the worlds were forged in the heart of stars.

We cast our minds across a teeming universe of life - the colour and variety of our world, and who knows what wonders beyond. The thrill of intelligence - the sheer wonder of self-awareness springing from insensate origins.

We imagined the low, dark scream of the heat death of the Universe, as entropy drains the vitality from stars, worlds and even heavy elements - for a billion billion years.

And then we sang "Bind us Together." It seemed right.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Liturgy for Flying Ant Day

Archdruid: Oh, look! A flying ant!

All: Ugh!

Archdruid: And loads of other flying ants!

All: Ugh!

Archdruid: And... wow - look at those flying ants!

All: Ugh!

Archdruid: And a big flying ant! That must be a queen!

All: Ugh!

Archdruid: After mating, the males crawl away and disappear.

Women: Yeah we've all been there.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Tolerance and the Clash of Religious Idiots

Blooming annoying, the whole Community being woken up like that.

Beaker Folk of more regular habits may not be aware that we have two dedicated prayer groups. The Late Night Prayer Group meets after Filling up of Beakers to pray for the good of the community as a whole. While the Early Morning Prayer Group, its "lark" equivalent, meets before Pouring out of Beakers with the same purpose.

Of course with these short nights, the groups' meeting times move closer together. And the late night bunch went on a bit late last night - right up to the point, at 4am, when the early morning crowd arrived intending to have an extra-long pray for the Festival of Stones and Tea Lights tomorrow.

Well, when two groups of devout but sleep-deprived pilgrims meet up in the small hours in the same space, a kind of spiritual Pauli Principle occurs. So a massive fight broke out for possession of the Moot House.

Anyway, we've treated all the song book and prayer bead injuries. And they're all going to bed. I guess they need to put in a few more prayers for world peace tomorrow.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Filling up of Beakers at Leicester Forest East Services : Aqua Sarum

Woe is me for I am a clergy of very little brain.
For behold I am but a pilgrim on the way
From Salisbury Diocese to the clergy conference at Swanwick.
And lo the command went out
"Bring thine living water from the River Avon
or the Froom, most-blessed of Hardy's bournes
or the other Avon, that one near Stonehenge, the one that isn't the Avon that floweth through Sarum fair.
Or the Piddle, that river the Victorians sometimes called the Trent
because Queen Victoria might not be amused.
Or the Axe or the Wey
Or the sea at West Bay
or another Avon. There's probably a few more."

But I forgot.
So here am I, at Leicester Forest East.
Peeling the label off a bottle of Evian.
Which is rich in many minerals.
But comes from a land of people that speak in strange tongues.
And though I'm sure no-one else will notice
God will.
God's like that.
God cares more than is strictly necessary.

Testing Abraham

God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And Abraham said, ‘Here I am.’ God said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning,
saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.
Abraham took the wood of the burntoffering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And Abraham said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Isaac said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together.
When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ The angel said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The LORD will provide’; as it is said to this day,
‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’ (Genesis 22.1-14)
And so our natural tendencies can be applied to this passage. The one who sees God as an irrational projection of our minds - as a meme used to enforce a patriarchal, oppressive society - reads into the passage the ghastliness of an all-powerful, monotheistic deity. A God that demands total obedience. A God that, like Rose Tyler in Doctor Who, hands out life and death as he sees fit.

And then the one who sees God as the one to be followed sees this differently. In this, God is always infinitely just and right. God is by definition able to tell Abraham to sacrifice his son. Abraham in his turn is right to fear God and do what he is told. As he marches, wet with sweat, full of apprehension, up Mount Moria, he must hate the thought of killing Isaac. He must wonder what the point is - God, after all, promised that through this son Abraham would bless all people. And God's intervention - once Abraham's faithfulness has been shown - is to save the son and provide an alternative.

There is a third, post-modern view on all this. In this reading, God's saying - OK, you've followed my call. You've kept accepting my promises. Now then, how far can I push you? At which point Abraham's like, "Sarah, hold my beer..." And it's only when God realizes that Abraham is only gonna go and do it, that he says - OK. This nonsense had better stop. I played chicken and turns out Abraham is better at it than me.

Whatever the motivation, Abraham didn't sacrifice Isaac. God did provide a substitute. And Abraham's children through Isaac went on to become a great nation and, through their worship of the true God, the Light to the Gentiles.

Much later, out of mythic time and into a historical world, on another morning, one of those descendants of Abraham came to a hill. He like Isaac was carrying the wood of his own sacrifice. He too climbed the mountain, and was readied for death.

But this time there was no substitute, no Doctor Who style get out of jail, no ram or even Barabbas to take his place. This son of Abraham went to a cross, shed human blood, broke down the walls of death and went on to live again. And in that man, God had come to live among us. To share our lives and deaths, become like us and make us like him. A second time, on a hill, God provided the sacrifice. But this time, it was God himself.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Commemoration of Michael Bond

Tonight's Commemoration of Michael Bond will be followed by a tea of marmalade sandwiches and herbs.

Anyone late for the service will receive a Hard Stare.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Collect for a Church Contactless Collection Device

O Thou who pourest blessings from above
and knowest both our incomings and our outgoings,
and blesseth both chip and pin,
Bless this contactless PED, thy creature of silicon and plastic,.
that it may take the right amounts from thy servants
in a secure, PCI-compliant and seamless manner.
and open up the hearts of thy servants
and bless their givings
that they may be cheerful givers
and yet never go overdrawn
lest they suffer the dread retribution of thy servants the banks
and fall into debt eternal.


Holland and Barrett: A Company in a Zillionth

Disappointed that the operating arm of the Beaker Folk, "Mrs Whimsey's Doilies" plc, was outbid by a Russian billionaire in buying Holland and Barrett, the sellers of vitamin pills and homoeopathic remedies.

I feel let down, really. I offered the holding company a very reasonable sum. To wit, my empty purse which used to have some money in it.

But in the end they accepted an offer of real money - not just its diluted memory.

It's almost like they don't believe in their own products.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Where Leadsom Leads

Inspired by Andrea Leadsom's demand that the media is more patriotic in its coverage of Brexit. Just amazed that Ken Livingstone didn't push her out of shot to tell her who else had that attitude to news publishing,

I mean, obviously it's a stupid thing to say, and a theft of the word "patriotic". As an English patriot, I want my country to be happy and prosperous - which it will have more chance of being, if we are in the European Union. So if the media is to be truly patriotic it should hold the shambles of the Brexit negotiation up as the dog's dinner that it truly is.

Of course, what the media mostly is, is partisan in different ways. Which is why I read the Guardian, the Telegraph and the BBC equally to keep some balance and something vaguely approaching intelligent commentary. The BBC being so keen to ensure impartiality and balance that it lets Nigel Farage on as well as Diane Abbott.

Anyway, I have today written to Revd Nathan over in the Trim Valley.  Telling him to ensure that the only letters he allows to be published in his church magazine be happy, positive ones about himself. In this way, Nathan will be happier in his ministry. The congregation will get happy vibes. Everyone's a winner. Except the Liturgimoaners. And who cares about them? They'll never get any letters published.

Reaching out in Prayer

Odd little episode at last night's "Worship in the Pentecostal Tradition" service.

Obviously the time of spontaneous collective prayer was slow to start - what with us being English and everything. But eventually the pre-written spontaneous prayers I'd quietly passed round to people before the service warmed things up and we got ten minutes of Cazzandra exclaiming about how we were "reaching out" to God.

Afterwards I asked her how she'd reached out to him. Turns out she's sent a couple of emails and God hasn't got back to her yet. But then God's probably busy and if she doesn't hear anything in a couple of weeks she'll try Skype.

Friday, 23 June 2017

A Message from the Bus Driver

Some passengers are complaining that we're heading over a cliff.

That's a bit much, in my opinion. After all, I let all the passengers have a vote. Either the coast road, or the inland one.

And surely the people who voted for the coast road realised that when we said 'coast road', we really meant 'go off a cliff'. After all, coast roads are very close to cliffs.

Specially those coast roads with a sign saying 'No entry to motor vehicles. Cliff edge.'

And those of you who wanted to take the inland route. Why are you moaning?  You lost.

What do you know about going off a cliff in a bus? You don't even like the coast.

And many of you, as we plummet over this cliff, will be asking - is it going to be a soft or hard landing?

Well I don't know.

From up here, I can't tell whether we're gonna smash to pieces on the rocks, or sink into the suffocating mud.

But to those complaining this is gonna be a disaster I can only say, suck it up, snowflakes. You lost.

I'd like to say 'I've got a brilliant idea.'

'But we aren't balancing on the edge any more.