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.

Amen.

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.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Where Gervais Went Wrong

Nice little piece here on "Thoughtfully Detached" on the big flaw in one of Rickie Gervais's bits of reasoning on science and religion. RG doesn't understand the history and philosophy of science. Not a surprise.

Service for the Day After Solstice

Archdruid: Nights are Drawing in.

All: Soon be Christmas.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Day of Rage: The Revolution Will be Acclimatised

Yeah, we were going to go and protest at the "Day of Rage" that the party with the most seats somehow thinks they "won" the election.

But it was so hot. And the trains would have been horrid. And London is ghastly in the heat. And Stacey Bushes is at Glasto, glamping.

We'll rage when it's cooler.  Much easier to bring down the hegemony when one is properly hydrated.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Childhood's End

Our marking the passing of Brian Cant last night went on a bit longer than the usual. You know how it is. Captain Flack and the band wanted to blow a Last Post, but since the catering had consisted of the supplies of cider that Windy Miller had brought along, it turned out more difficult than we all expected.

It is a shock though. In my mind Brian Cant was - like John Noakes - still a young man, making absurd games up and messing about with Floella Benjamin. Not John Noakes. That would have been a Play Away /  Blue Peter mash up that should have happened.
But all this time it turns out that Brian Cant had been getting old! And if him, then presumably I'm not immune to the process. Childhood is a garden we may return to, but not in the same direction.

Here is the clock, the Trumpton clock. Telling the time, steadily, sensibly; never too quickly, never too slowly.

Ask not for whom Trumpton Clock tells the time.

It tells for thee.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Service for the Death of Brian Cant

Archdruid: Here's a house.

All: Here's the door. Windows-  1, 2, 3, 4.

Archdruid: Ready to play?

All: Not really. Brian Cant has died.

Archdruid: Oh no. How's Hamble?

All: Sad.

Archdruid: Jemima?

All: Sad.

Archdruid: Big and Little Ted?

All: Sad.

Archdruid: Humpty?

All: He's a stuffed egg, devoid of emotions. Don't be so stupid.

Archdruid: What's through the round window?

All: Our lives, drifting past like ripples on the stream.

Archdruid: Square window?

All: Same.

Archdruid: Arched...

All: Same. They're all showing our childhoods melting. First Noakes, then Sallis. Now this.

Archdruid: Oh well. All flesh is as grass.

All: And all Play Schools came to an end.

Archdruid: You remember the biscuit factory?

All: Aaaah.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Solstice Ceremony Transferred

Just a last minute reminder. Since people have to get up for work on Wednesday, we're transferring the annual Solstice Sunrise service to tomorrow.

Since 4 am is a hellish time to get up, we're going to hold it at 11 am. I know we won't see the first tender light of the sun reaching over the horizon.  So we're going to hold the service in the Moot House and show a recording of last year's Solstice.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Herne the Hunter are expected to appear in the Greenwood on Wednesday round about a quarter to 6. As ancient pagan relics they've never really been able to cope with British Summer Time.

Those Newer Versions of Hymn Books

New English Hymnal

Even Newer English Hymnal

Newest English Hymnal

Revised English Hymnal

New Revised Standard English Hymnal

Today's New English Hymnal

New International English Hymnal

Hymns Ambient and Post-Modern

Collated Mission Praise

Combined Final Definitely the Last Mission Praise

Mission Praise: The Revenge

Now that's What I call Taizé XXIII

The New Improved But Still Definitely In Need of  Redemption Hymnal

The Even More Complete Come and Praise

Catholic Hymns Old and Less Old

The Disunited Methodist Hymnal

Combined Songs of Fellowship

Complete Songs of Fellowships

Even more Complete Songs of Fellowship

Complete Songs of Fellowship: A New Hope

Please no more Songs of Fellowship

Sounds of Dripping Water


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Imposter Syndrome Meeting Cancelled

Afraid we've had to cancel this evening's talk on "Imposter Syndrome and How to Deal With It."

Jazmine Jones was due to talk to us on how to identify this issue, build up your confidence and deal with it. Unfortunately at the last minute she realised she didn't really know enough about it, and suggested we find someone who knows what they're talking about and isn't an utter fraud.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Seek and You Shall Find

Annoying. Thought it would be nice to have Taize-style High Mass in the Catholic Tradition. Them Catholics always have some saint to celebrate, so I was going to look up whose day it is in my Big Book of Saints.

Trouble is I've lost it. If only there were someone whose help I could ask for.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Cabinet Reshuffle

Those New Appointments in Full

Oracle of DelphiTheresa May
Minister for WhalesMoby Dick
Lord High Executioner Andrea Leadsom
Lord of the DanceBoris Johnson
Eye of SauronNigel Farage
Smug Lord George Osborne
Chief Prefect and 3rd Oik Michael Gove
Minister of Magic Jeremy Hunt
Unseen HandOrange-man
Orange ManDonald Trump
Lord ChancellorMing the Merciless
Foreign SecretaryGrima Wormtongue 
Minister for Re-educationJustine Greening
Ministry of Delusion Emily Thornberry
Minister of FoxesLiam Fox
Minister of TrussesLiz Truss
Minister for Climate ChangeNoah
Keeper of the Queen's Guinea Pigs David Gauke

Trinitarian Sermon Judgmentalism

In keeping with tradition this morning I was acutely aware of the heresy-hunters in the Beaker Folk so ensured I delivered my five minute sermon without hesitation, repetition or modalism.

Someone did accuse me of patripassurianism, but I managed to persuade them that was a type of pigeon.

In the event however I didn't get too much trouble from the Athanasian Posse. I warned them of the heresy of Andalucianism early on. They were all so busy googling, they didn't hear a word of the rest of the sermon.

To the End of the Age

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.
And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matthew 28.16-20)

Astonishingly ambivalent reading, as Matthew notes that, even as Jesus prepared to return to heaven, "some doubted." But doubted what? That it was really him? That he had really died? That he had really been resurrected from the dead? Or that they should be worshipping him?

The disciples were devout Jews. They knew that the Lord God was one. To worship Jesus would be to accept there was more. That Jesus - the man they had eaten with, laughed with, walked through Judea and Galilee with; the man they knew had died under the terrible authority of the Roman Empire - was God. That God was more complex, more dynamic than they had ever dreamed.

Jesus said, "all authority on heaven and earth is given to me." Here in the UK we've just had an election. Theresa May looked for the authority to approach Europe in a way of her choosing. And the people have said, "we don't think so." All earthly authority is temporary - in democratic societies we limit it through elections. In dictatorships, God limits it through death.

Jesus's authority is in heaven and on earth. So it's unlimited, eternal. But the disciples aren't to go out as a conquering army. They're to go out, and baptise in the name of Father, Son and Spirit.

Baptism is a sign of death - of the water of death that closes over all of pour heads, even Jesus's.

It's a sign of life - of rising up. Of the water that brings us life, that waters crops, that can make flowers grow even in deserts.

It's a sign of the Holy Spirit - that Holy Spirit of God who calls us before we know, challenges us, breaks our hearts and fills us with God's love and power.

And it's a sign of love! As we baptise into the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we bring the one baptised into the family of church. But also realise that they are caught up in the love that flows from God the Father to the Son, that flows out to us in the streams of the Holy Spirit - a love that is always moving, always hoping, always forgiving, always giving.

And through growth and struggle, through times of joy and times of trouble, through life and death, Jesus is with us! Today, tomorrow, until the world comes to an end. He is forever alive, forever our God, forever the one that loves us. Until the end comes, the world fails, the things we held onto fall away, the false lights become shadow, and there is only one thing left to hope on. Jesus, who is with us always. To the end of the ages. And forever.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Lines on the UK General Election

By Melissa Sparrow McGonagall 

'Twas in the year twenty hundred and seventeen
That Theresa May made the stupidest decision ever seen
Her advisers (of whom later) looked at the opinion poll
and saw that Theresa was on a roll.
For Labour was led by a man who was scruffier than Michael Foot
and was a vegetarian to boot.
(And though Jeremy Corbyn is quite scruffy
He's not as bad as this poem by Carol Ann Duffy).
And some said he was friends with the IRA (who used to be the terrorists back in the day
but weren't as frightening as the ones we have today because they would rather plant bombs and then run away).

And so Theresa called an election
in which she suffered misdirection
because she claimed to be strong and stable
- an aspiration for which she was unable.
For she was terrified of the public at full flood
and left the tricky work instead to Amber Rudd.
Instead of engaging with both commoners and gentry
she repeated slogans of a magic money tree
so Jeremy Corbyn made her look over-shy
by leaving his allotment and having memes of giving side-eye.

And so the great day of election dawned
and everywhere the Tories mourned
because instead of a May coronation
they had a Labour restoration
the SNP in Scotland lost their ground
and Liberal Democrats nowhere were to be found.
And Theresa was upstaged by Lord Bucket Head
an intergalactic space lord, it was said.
And Professor John Curtice appeared on the TV screen
to present the most accurate exit poll that was ever seen.

And so on that election day
her dreams of a landslide were washed away
like the last remains of the bridge o'er the river Tay.
Which was the greatest disaster till the 8th of June for May.
And Nicola Sturgeon looked quite glum
And Twitter reacted like Corbyn had won.
But though Labour celebrated like they'd seized the day
In fact, the winner was sort of Theresa May
Although an absolute majority she could not see
she sacked her advisers, and clung onto power thanks to the DUP.

Sermons

So you've found your church. Got in at the right time. Got all the pieces of paper. Realised how to work them to sing the right thing at the right time.

There will be some readings. Maybe I'll come back to how to perform these. But for the time being let's take them as read. And then - just as you're dozing off and wondering when you'll get some of that delicious "Value" free-trade instant coffee - there's a sermon.

I mean, obviously you could just doze. That's always an option. But if you're new to church, you might want to learn something about this whole Christianity thing - and I guess statistically you've as much chance of that during the sermon as any other time. The Bible has many different viewpoints in many modes of writing. So you're gonna want any tips you can get.

But on the other hand you early on want to define what kind of preaching method the preacher has. That's going to tell you where in future you can doze off every Sunday, or whether there might be something worth listening to. Or, if you want to sleep and they will wake you up every week. In which case you might want to consider a new church.

By the way - be warned. Tomorrow is Trinity Sunday.  This is never a good week to judge the vicar or chief pastor's preaching. Either they'll tie themselves in knots trying to explain the doctrine of the Trinity or, more likely, they'll be taking their early summer day Sunday off and have left some other schmuck to do it.

Be aware that the following types of preacher are not mutually exclusive. This is more like a pandimensional Venn diagram in many colours

The Shouter

The Shouter shouts. The Gospel is exciting, don't get me wrong. And the Shouter DOESN'T WANT YOU TO MISS OUT ON THE EXCITEMENT. The hardest preacher to sleep through.

"All about me"

"All about me" will use whichever text the Bible is being used to illustrate their own genius and saintliness. Nothing Paul did will not have a  parallel. The witty wisdom they employed within their former or current workplace is astounding. Their speaking of truth to power a wonder. You will often wonder why they get so beaten up at PCC meetings.

All Greek

Every now and then it is acceptable to explain a tricky term with reference to the original Greek (assuming you're preaching from the New Testament). After all, much of our theology was first worked out in Greek. But every week is a bit much. Especially if the minister us confusing terms. Perichoresis, for instance, doesn't mean what a lot of people would like it to mean.  And it can be translated in such a way as to provide a visual image the congregation really doesn't need. Having said which, that particular image might stop you falling asleep if the preacher does use it.

Warble

What is it about preaching that brings out the worst in people's voices?  OK, the reason bishops lay hands on ordinands is to such the regional accents out of their bodies and replace them with Received Pronunciation But even so. Posh, singsong, with odd high and low notes. If you have a preacher like this, don't leave the church. Record them and email them the mp3s. It should soon change.

Biblical Exposition

If the minister asks you to turn to James 1 or whatever, and then takes you though line by line - ask them to send out Bible Reading notes instead. That should bring Sunday lunch forward by half an hour.

Charismatic Chris

Charismatic Chris won't preach from notes. Mostly because Charismatic Chris has not prepared in any normal way for the sermon - preferring to depend upon the Lord Charismatic Chris has either been very blessed by the Lord, and you will be too - or else you will hear the same sermon every week. Probably something that, whatever the reading was, will end up somewhere around John 3:16.

"It's behind you" 

I'm not sure there's any harm in inviting responses from the congregation from time to time. But catchphrases can get a bit wearing. "What does the Lord do?" / "Set you free" - every week - might just  do your head.  And again - in a congregational setting - you can't settle down for a nap.  If everyone knows they have to do the Mexican wave every time the minister shouts "God loves you," you can't relax.

"Preaching for a Decision" 

Here's a clue. If the chapel contains 4 ageing Methodists, who've been to church for the last 83 years, the preacher don't need to have an altar call every week. Maybe just after one dies when it concentrates the mind. If your minister calls everyone to the front ever week - go for it.  If you go forward every single time, eventually they're gonna stop.

"What would Jesus do?"

Very hard to tell. We're dealing with a time gap of 20 centuries and a totally different mind set.

Five Minute Sermons

No use to anyone. Recommended by quires.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Politics and Religion

I'm pleased to say that, thanks to the support of Drayton Parslow, I have been reelected as Archdruid. I know everybody thinks Drayton's a bit fundamentalist and intolerant, but I have managed to keep my policies for the Beaker Folk fundamentally unchanged.

So it's pebbles, tea lights, Enya, folksy choruses and no more gay weddings in the Moot House.
Meanwhile Eddie Arthur reflects on the way the layout of the House of Commons can reinforce confrontational politics.

Of course, the way the place is set up reflects its former purpose. As a chapel. Suddenly it all makes perfect sense.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Bishop of Doubles Entendres

The ACNA has appointed a "missionary bishop" under the auspices of GAFCON.

The Church of England could complain. But I reckon they're missing a trick. They should embrace the views of the self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy.

From now on, in all religious dialogue in the UK, the views of the missionary bishop should be sought.

In other words, we should keep asking him what the missionary position is.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Live Fast, Die Old

This is the Wikipedia paragraph on Peter Sallis's marriage, from a couple of months ago, up tp the day before he died:
Sallis married Elaine Usher at St John's Wood Church in London on 9 February 1957; Their son, Timothy Crispian Sallis, was born in 1959.

But this is the equivalent, updated the day after he died: 
Sallis married actress Elaine Usher at St. John's Wood Church in London on 9 February 1957. However, it was a turbulent relationship, with Usher leaving him 16 times before they divorced in 1965 on grounds of desertion and adultery. They were reconciled but she eventually left him for good in 1983. They had one son, Crispian Sallis (born 1959), who went on to become an Oscar-nominated film set designer.

Basically, if you want to have a good press - don't die.

Hymns

So you've found your church. Turned up before a service starts - ideally the key "three minutes before." You've worn suitable clothing for the temperature in the building. Which means, in a rural Church of England building, seventeen layers. Or more in the winter.

The thing you're gonna notice is that people sing. There's lots of different kinds of singing but they can be divided up into the following, some or more of which you will meet depending on the tradition 1 of the church.

Psalms: From the book of that name in the Bible. Some churches have the minister and congregation reading every other line in turn, just like King David did. In the Church of England you get "chanted psalms" - which have a form of music you will never understand, and where each member of the congregation sing their own random note. These replaced the former "metrical psalms" which were good to sing, with decent tunes, easy to understand and therefore dangerously democratic.

Canticles: From the Latin for "probably not a psalm". Something from the Bible which sounds like a psalm, but isn't a psalm. Unless it is.

Lord of the Dance: Dire hippy heresy that teachers in 1981 thought was a proper hymn.

Hymn: A formal song in praise of God, or for instruction or exhortation. Varies from the glories of Wesley and Watts to the Arts and Crafts cuddliness of Timothy Dudley Smith to those dire Victorian inventions that just go randomly up and down.

"Charismatic" "Chorus": ( Insert quotes as appropriate). Something written since 1960. In most Church of England churches will have been written before 1980 as well. Could be four short lines, formerly repeated interminably but now strictly twice. Or, in modern specimens, six verses, chorus, middle eight, bridge, key and time signature changes. The best are pretty good. The worst, like Genesis songs with worse theology.

Anthem: The thing a choir sings during communion. A bit like a hymn but more complex.

Carol: The one in the choir who's always threatening to walk out if the organist plays Graham Kendrick songs.

Folksy settings of the Liturgy: Don't.


1 Tradition - the way the church has always done things, going back at least as far as the last (saintly) minister.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Welcomers

Also called “door steward” in some Methodist churches, but I prefer “Welcomer” as it sounds like an alien. Remember that when an over-eager one, wanting to make you welcome because they have not seen you before, tells you “we’ve always keen to welcome fresh blood.” They probably just mean it’s nice to meet new people and maybe you’ll want to settle in this church.

But then – remember they’re called “Welcomers”. Maybe there’s another reason entirely.  Maybe they really are Dr Who style aliens. Maybe they do feast on the blood of newcomers – bringing youth to their ageing bodies, incapable of regeneration in our nitrgen—rich Earth atmosphere. Maybe they landed from an exoplanet orbiting a nearby sun-like star.

Run! It’s your only chance! Run.

No, you’re right. They’re probably just being nice but clumsy.

But they're a guide to the church. A Welcomer who smiles, shakes your hand, asks your name (unless you're the vicar, in which case it's a bit weird) then leaves you to it is about right. One who points at the books and then ignores you might just be unlucky. One who tries to get your home address and three key skills that you could bring to the church may be a symptom of a church that is just perhaps a little too keen / desperate / trying to be welcoming.

But if you're welcomed by nobody and there's just a pile of church welcome leaflets and hymn books - you might want to try somewhere else. Or, of course, you might be the kind of introvert that knows this is just where you will fit in.

That's the great thing about being welcomed into church. Everybody's desired experience is different. Although none of us want to be welcomed by the Welcomers, eager for fresh blood.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Hymn for the passing of Peter Sallis (aka Norman Clegg aka Wallace in Wallace and Gromit)

Now all of the summer's gone
The golden ages of sit com
The smart bloke with the flat cap on
Has drunk his summer wine.

No bath tubs left to chase downhill
No Compo's socks to make him ill
No empty glasses to refill
With Tetleys not with wine.

The memories of the 70s here in my heart
Of Battys, Sid and Ivy's caff
They all had to part.

No pushy blokes with stupid plans
No rolling dales that pass with time
It's time to climb that angelic bike
And drink celestial wine.

Actually Turning up at Church

So you've found out where a church is, and when to go.

My advice to you is to arrive 3 minutes before the service’s advertised time. If you arrive earlier you may unexpectedly sit in somebody else’s place – often a seat that they will claim was in the family since 1831. If you are lucky in these circumstances, you will simply be informed that you are in a forbidden location. If you’re unlucky, the pew’s owner will sit behind you, glaring at the back of your neck.  If, wondering why your neck feels so warm, you turn around – all you will see is a sweet old person listening intently to the sermon.

"Sit anywhere you like. Except Esme's pew, obviously......"

Another reason for not arriving early is that the Welcomer1 will talk to you. They may be nice – but you may also discover that they are more efficient at getting information out of you than the nice cop in a detective show. We’ll come back to Welcomers shortly. Though you might want to consider this previous description of what you might encounter.

If you turn up too late – ie after the time the service is meant to start – you’ll be forced to sit wherever you can find near the door. This will have its advantages – you can get back out again pretty quick.  But is it worth it for the laser-like glares you will receive from the person in the congregation who has already put on their holy face once, and now will have to take it off again.

If you turn up half way through by mistake, your best bet is to pretend that you're Eastern Orthodox. Walk in confidently, ignore the entire congregation, light a candle, walk out - and never, ever return. If you come back at the right time next week, you'll be giving the game away.


[1] Welcomer – person who stands by the door to prevent people running in and stealing the hymn books. Will typically give you a hymn book, the new trendy hymn book that came out 20 years ago, a printed sheet with the hymn too new for the trendy hymn book, a service sheet, a notice sheet and – if you are new  - the church magazine.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Simon Jenkins Talks Drivel

Dunno who Sir Simon Jenkins is but he's been talking drivel at the Hay on Wye festival.

Sir Simon compares the (relative) popularity of cathedrals with the (relative) decline of parish churches and suggests it's down to the old, meaningless distinction between religion and spirituality. Religion bad, old-fashioned, formal, structured. Spirituality free-flowing, hippy, believe what you like, go with the flow man (or, in these enlightened times, woman or other self-identification).

But.  I may be missing something here. But. Cathedral evensong (for instance) is first and foremost a religious thing. There is a set format. There are collects, a creed, both the Mag and Nunc if you're really blessed. If there's  sermon it's in the suggested place.

And the psalms, hymns, creed and readings are all, almost with exception, about God. This is a religious thing - and if it's also a spiritual one is down to the work of clergy, quire and laity (and lest we forget the Spirit) that makes it one.

It strikes me what Sir Simon is after is not spirituality - as he himself mentions in passing, it's anonymity. It's being able to dip into his own personal well of blessedness - constructed within the matrix of others' religion - and take what he wants without giving.

If that's what is making the cathedrals popular it probably also explains the financial straits some are in. Everybody wants nice experiences - spiritual or, as seems more likely, aesthetical. But not everybody wants to show the commitment to pay for it. Obviously I cannot speak of this particular noble knight, whose giving pattern - and indeed spirituality - I am not privileged to be aware of.

Spirituality or religion? Give me religion ever time. You know where you are and it keeps the roof on.

Monthly Meat Raffle

Thanks to all who supported the "First Sunday" Fund-Raising Meat Raffle.

First prize was Chicken Thighs. Which I've always thought was a cruel nickname for Burton. But still, he's won some lamb chops. So that should cheer him up.

First Find Your Church - Knowing When to Turn Up

So you've found your church.

Now you need to turn up at the right time.

This can be trickier than it sounds. If you live in a large town then you should be all right. The service1  times should be pretty much the same every week and you can turn up, confident that something is likely to be happening. You may or may not like it – but it will at least be there when you expect. Also - some churches won't be Church of England. Which normally means things will be simpler than if the C of E gets involved.

In the countryside things are different. Most churches are C of E these days. And the days when every village had a vicar, and every church  had a service every Sunday, are long gone. Nowadays it’s trickier. The vicar will have three, four or even up to eleven churches. And the times of the services will be randomly scattered across the month and across the villages.

The normal pattern will be for a church to have one or more services a month, normally at the same time on the same week of the month – so St Ethelbald’s on the Wold will have an 8am Communion every first Sunday, and a 10am “Family Eucharist” on the third Sunday. Meanwhile Holy Cross, Chipping Orton will have its 8am on the 2nd Sunday and an 11.15 on the 4th. The vicar in these circumstances is normally a shattered man or woman, tearing across the countryside to take 3 or 4 services every Sunday, with a phenomenal memory for names and faces. And terrified it might snow.
Come back in March

You may be thinking to yourself – are members of the Church of England the only people that are aware of what week of the month it is? And you may be reassured to know that the answer is “yes”. But even this odd realisation won’t help you with the wonder of what is called a “Fifth Sunday”.

Fifth Sundays of the Month arise every 3 months or so. In some special years you may even be able to fit five in – a nightmare to retail accountants, but they’re not really our problem here so let’s push on. On a Fifth Sunday (always capitalised), if you live in an area where a vicar has care of more than two churches, the people from all the parishes2 in the benefice3  will come together 

Of course, nobody can be prescriptive with these things. You may instead find that the services are allotted randomly every month, or the vicar may have introduced an 8 week timetable, or some churches are so cold and so far from electricity that they’re closed from October to May. Or the plague may have struck. Or, if you're in Norfolk, they may have reverted to paganism and only hold services at the time of the full moon.

So - C of E or other, country or town - your best bet once you’ve found your church is to go to it and find the notice board. Quite often then are stuck up by the wall or the gate to the churchyard. Sometimes, they’re in the Church Porch, behind a locked gate. But sometimes they’re accessible, weather proof, and the rota hasn’t been hopelessly smeared to illegibility by the ingress of rainwater.

You may be best off bringing a friend who has a degree in quantum physics so they can interpret the complexities of the rota. But after ten or fifteen minutes of close examination, you should have worked out when the next service is and can plan your visit...... 

1 Service – a time set aside for worship. In principle it’s the “service” of the people in the church to God. Some vicars assume it’s them receiving the service of the church – or the church receiving the vicar’s service.
2 Parish – an area usually bigger than a street but smaller than a medium sized town, normally with its own church building, that would have its own vicar if any of the inhabitants went to church. Now often banged together into benefices.
3 Benefice – from the Latin for “a good work”. A bunch of churches banged together with vague reference to geography, to the point where there may be enough people to justify paying for a vicar.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Service of Healing for Sergio Ramos

Archdruid: And as we pray for our brother Sergio that he recovers from that most hideous of injuries, and indeed half-expect that we may be needing a raising from the dead...

Sergio Ramos: I'm better now! Cheers!

All: It's a miracle!

The Busiest Priest in Christendom?

Astounded by this announcement in the Church Times:
BUTCHER. The Revd Heather Butcher, Priest-in-Charge of Litcham with Kempston, East and West Lexham, Mileham, Beeston-Next-Mileham, Stanfield, Tittleshall and Godwick, of Gressenhall with Long­ham with Wendling and Bit­ter­ing Parva, of Great and Little Dunham and Great and Little Fransham, of Rougham and Weas­en­ham in Wel­ling­ham, Rougham and Weasen­ham, Team Rector Desig­nate in the proposed Laun­ditch and Upper Nar Team Minis­try, Bishop’s Adviser for Women’s Ministry, and Hon. Canon of Norwich Cathedral, now also Priest-in-Charge of Welling­ham, in Wel­ling­ham, Rougham and Weasen­ham (Norwich).

I knew the Church of England boasted that it had "a Christian presence in every community." I just didn't realise that the presence referred to was Revd Heather Butcher. Thank goodness Godwick is an abandoned village.

Somewhere the ghost of Betjemann considers writing a poem about the situation. And gives up, exhausted.

(h/t to this tweet:

)

First Find Your Church

A little guide for somebody who might want to consider it....

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

After all – what could be easier than finding a church. There’s one in every town – quite often more than one. Quite often they’ve got spires at one end, things that look like battlements or towers. Just to make them easy to find. Maybe even the word "Church" somewhere on a notice board outside.

Word of warning, though. Just because it meets some of these criteria doesn’t necessarily make it a church. You’d be surprised how many people have ended up accidentally going on a tour of Warwick castle under the impression it was a church. And that really big pointy building near the Thames in London called the Shard is an office block, not a church. Terrifying place.  They had a fire alarm once and orcs came flooding out into the streets of Southwark.

Easy to get confused

And it's quite likely some of your friends actually go to church. Albeit they aren't necessarily likely to tell you that. Christians can be notoriously diffident about being in direct personal contact with the One that created the universe, and died and defeated death. And if you go up to each of your friends in turn saying "do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" you'll be surprised how few friends you will eventually have. So basically - don't count on your friends to tell you where the church is.

So the best thing to do is look online. Some churches have websites – yeah. I know you thought that Jesus had probably banned them from using any modern technology, but we’ve used the printing press (with and without moveable type); the phone (always useful for letting the minister know you’re having existential doubts at 2am); and now even the Internet.

So first up – some warnings about the website. Sure, type your google search in – something like “Church Husborne Crawley” if you live in Husborne Crawley, that is. If you don’t you’d be better off typing something else. Ideally somewhere near where you live. And if you’re lucky and you have the sort of local church that does it properly, you’ll get a really good list of the services they were running last year, who the vicar1  was then, and the plans for Christmas two years ago. This won’t guarantee what they’re like now, but at least you’ll know they existed recently.

Then you'll know that it might be worth going. But that's another day's adventure...


1  Vicar – from the Latin for “a substitute” – strictly speaking meaning somebody who gets paid for looking after the parish instead of somebody else (the rector or the bishop or God or somebody. Don’t ask me. I don’t get it. It’s all lost in 17th Century English society. Don’t even get me started on rectors.  Basically these days by “vicar” people mean anybody who wears a dog collar and appears vaguely plausible.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Nativity of Thomas Hardy (1840)

Yokel 1: I see it's Tommy Hardy's birthday.

Yokel 2: Dead and gone as we all shall be.

Yokel 1: I'll take the cake back then.

Yokel 2: Can you smell that air? Is that the sulphurous emissions of London, as it draws our native maids and youths into its evil dance?

Yokel 1: Nay, it's the smell of freedom. Donald Farfrae says he's pulling out of yon Paris Climate accord.

Yokel 2: Paris! That rookery of vanities.

Yokel 1: We'll burn some tyres before nammit tide I warrant it?

Yokel 2: Yea, let us down to the Silent Woman. She's heated by shale oil now.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Holy Blood

Been a bit low on blogging lately. In fact I've spent a few days in Brugge. Might as well make the most of Europe before we're all banned from it.

Odd little chapel in Brugge: the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Within that little chapel is a vial - a Byzantine perfume bottle containing a cloth stained, they say, with the blood of our Lord.

Though some say it came back from Jerusalem, the odds are on it having been "liberated" from the Sack of Constantinople. Before the Islamic conquest of that city, the Catholic Crusaders got there first.

The devout walk up to the altar in the side aisle, gaze upon the relic for a short time, cross themselves and leave.

I watched from afar. I can't believe it's really a genuine relic of Jesus too unlikely, too undocumented. So I wasn't going to cross myself before it. But I don't want to dismiss someone else's faith. And you never know... So I bowed to the altar and left.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

The Rotating Rotas of the Rural Rector

To the great credit of the Lambfold Benefice,  out there in the Northamptonshire Uplands, their website is up to date, containing this month's services and even a bit of June's. Full marks for that.

Like many parishes, the rota appears complex. To their credit they spell it out in full so you don't need a degree in quantum mechanics to work out where to be each week, or whether you can stay in bed because Litchborough has a Sunday off.

But why do rural parishes have such complex rotas, their service times and locations controlled in this way by the weeks of the month? How has a system evolved whereby accountants and Anglicans are the only people on earth who know what week of the month it is?

I have a theory. Nobody can explain its meaning and it's based, ultimately, on the motion of the moon. The Church Rota is of pagan origin.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Robo-Priest

The Daily Mirror carries an article about a "Robo-Priest" created in Gutenberg. And it does make me think.

I mean, it's got more personality than some clergy. It shows more emotion than some. And it's not as scary as others.

But is it as human and responsive to human need? Well.  I have an old tape of a Spring Harvest worship time led by Chris Bowater. And he says, and I quote loosely because I really can't be bothered to find it,

"I don't want to be too manipulative here. But I think we should all raise our hands."

There's a thud on the tape at that point if you turn it up loud enough. The sound of one of my church party hitting the roof.

Whatever a robot vicar can or can't do, its logic circuits make it unlikely to be spiritually manipulative while expressly saying it's not.

I'm ordering three.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Ascension Sunday or Not

Much confusion among the Beaker Folk as we wondered whether to celebrate Ascension again today. Many were against it. Among them the people who think you ought to celebrate religious feasts once, on the right days. And the people who fell off the roof on Thursday and don't want to do it again.

So instead we are marking the anniversary of the first broadcast of the Goon Show.

Now, to be clear, none of us can actually remember the Goon Show. We are aware however that it was a seminal moment in British cultural history. A time when people who were working class were still allowed to be satirists. Before the great Posh Satire Takeover that was "That was the week that was" that was.After which, only people who had been to minor public schools or Oxbridge could even consider being funny.

So the Goon Show Liturgy consisted of a load of catchphrases nobody understood, allusions to a time long gone past, and a nasty moment down by Duckhenge when Hnaef fell in the water. While people said things weren't as good these days.

Imagine a 1662 baptism service. You'll just about get the idea.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Death of a Groundhog

It is with sadness that I report that the Beaker Earless Bunny, aka the Groundhog, has passed to the pastures where the grass is juicy and the carrots eternal.

In keeping with Beaker custom, we launched her fiery little funeral ship out from Duckhenge and into the Duck Pond. There was a funerary procession from our trained enclosed penguin order, the Sisters of the Holy Haddock.

Thanks to our neighbours the Guinea Pig Worshippers of Stewartby, who seem to have forgiven us for the time we accidentally ate their little furry gods as Peruvian tapas. The Great Guinea Pig himself said a few words. But as they just sounded like whistles and grunts we've no idea what they were.

We're very sad. She was short-tempered, short-sighted and inclined to attack at the smell of blood. But we loved her.

Service of Celebrity Non-Apology

Archdruid: Please remove your tin hat. This is a holy place.

Rufus Hound: But I'm a freethinking hipster actor-comedian with more followers than God.  I bow to no-one. Especially not the child-murdering government.

All: Sorry what?

Rufus Hound: I may have to make a Nazi allusion at this point, as Ken Livingstone is unavailable for comment.

Archdruid: Maybe inappropriate?

Rufus Hound: I'm sorry if anyone was offended by that comment. But I do seriously think it. So if you're offended it's your own fault. And I am the free-ranging poor person's Russell Brand.

All: Nobody's that poor.

Rufus Hound: Obviously when I say "think", that is probably the wrong word.

All: No kidding.

Rufus Hound: More kind of.... wondering? Behold my wondrous beard.

Archdruid: Can someone please take Mr Hound's spade from him?

All: Fraid not. That hole is already too deep for us to get down. And he just hit the water table.

Rufus Hound: Look, can we just delete this liturgy, fill in the hole and pretend nothing ever happened?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Failed Church Advertising Slogans

God hates you - Go to Church and he won't.

Headache? Tense, nervous headache? Light a tea light.

£5 will pay for a stone in the wall of our new kitchen. For 50 quid the vicar won't visit for a year. Promise.

Methodism: Probably the best liberal Arminianism in the world.

This is a man's world.

The Rapture. It will give you wings!

The Church of England. Believe what you like. The coffee's awful regardless.

The sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous. Please donate to our church  roof appeal.

Are you a man looking for women? Go to Church.

Ch__ch what's missing? An engagement with the whole post-Constantinian situation.

You only get an "oou" with homoousious.

Are you a man looking for men? Go to Church. But be discreet. Especially if you end up as a bishop.

Vatican II. The best a modernist can get.

What's the worst that could happen? You could end up in Hell.

If St John the Evangelist Had Been on an Effective Writing Course

Thank you to Burton for this morning's reading of John 16: 16-20 "if John had been on an Effective Writing Course."

I'm impressed that Burton managed to get the whole discourse down to 19 words. Course I am.

But I can't help thinking he's lost the poetry.

Meanwhile, good news after the dawn Ascension Day service on the roof of the Moot House. Only two cases of vertigo and three broken bones.

Next year we really should use a building with a flat roof.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Hearts on Fire

Apologies to the group of newcomers who turned up to this lunchtime's service and were clearly disappointed.

Obviously a problem with spell checking when Burton produced the poster.

That was supposed to be "Informal Worship." Informal. Not "Infernal".

Sunday, 21 May 2017

An Unknown God

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring.”
‘Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.’ (Acts 17.22-31)
Nothing I like better, I'm afraid, that some one with a career in sales or a degree in media telling me, on the basis of my Archdruical pointy hat, that science has disproved religion. I like to dig out the handbag my Oxford degree in Chemistry (special subject Quantum Chemistry, since you ask) and say "well I'm not sure I agree." They won't be bright enough to be worth arguing with, after all. Not because of their degree or their careers - after all, Trump is basically in sales and he's done all right - but because their foolish question has shown up their uncritical acceptance of third-hand arguments.

Of course I don't just leave them empty-handed. Reaching into the special "other" section in my handbag, I pull out a sachet of instant "spaghetti monster" pasta bolognaise, squeeze it out into their hand, and say "behold your noodly god."

Their reasoning hasn't reached as far as Paul, off the cuff, in Athens 2,000 years ago. They deserve nothing better than being patronised and a handful of mince.

What's one great thing that the existence of religions, of science, of magic teach us? Even the existence of magical thinking? It's that human beings constantly look for explanations and meaning. In a wild world, we want to know how and why things happen, and ideally what will happen next.

And so when the wind blows through the trees and the trees move - the Greek thinks of Aeolus, sending the breezes in the forms of horses. The Christian is reminded of the Spirit of God, who breathes on the waters of creation and breathes life into every human. And the meteorologist tells us about high and low pressure areas, then tells us there certainly won't be a hurricane.

Paul is in Athens and the Greeks are the number one searchers for meaning. They have scientists. They have mathematicians. They have many schools of philosophers - at least one of which is already denying the gods exist. They have hundreds of gods - big gods, small gods, household gods, tree-gods, lake-gods. As if they didn't have enough gods they would, when encountering other nations, find out about their gods - sometimes they would work out which of their own gods they equated to. Sometimes they would just add them in. That's the great thing about polytheist paganism - always room for one more up top.

So Athens is as littered with shrines as Central London is with posters advertising leftwing rallies.

And Paul starts with praise - and never slips into anything other than a reasonable discussion. "I see you are very religious" - ironic, though, as the people of the Areopagus - of Mars Hill - are inclined to sit around dispassionately discussing the latest new religious idea.

They must be so religious, they even worship the god they don't know. They're probably thinking that's just the sort of god you don't want to get all upset with you - one you don't know anything about. How will that god respond if you don't make him or her offerings? You don't know. That's the problem with unknown gods.  So up goes another altar.

Paul says - let me tell you about the unknown god. He's not so unknown to the Jews. In fact, he's even told us hims name.  Though we cant say it....
By Юрий Рудницкий - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

He's the God who made the heaven and the earth - and all the things you ascribe to your gods - the cycles of the seasons, the wildness of the sea, the wind - they all ultimately go back to him.  In fact - all your gods are just ways of coming to a limited understanding of what God is like - but full marks for trying. Your greatest god of all - Zeuss - one of your poets said "in him we live and move and have our being". And in doing that, your poet was actually managing to understand what the true God is like. God is not a separate god, like an outsized human being, like your gods. He doesn't live on a mountain, though we say the lightning comes from him as it does from Zeuss. Because even the mountains, the lightning, the heavens and the earth come from him and totally depend on him at all times.

This is why no scientific evidence could ever be found for God, why no scientific experiment could ever reveal God. Because "in him we live and move and have our being" - even our science depends totally on God.

But, says Paul - there's more. The Greek gods occasionally came to earth.  This normally happened when Zeuss was full of the joys of spring and decided he wanted to become the father of a few more demigods. But it happened. Well, this God I am telling you also came to visit. You won't find God in a stone statue, in a bronze idol - you won't trap God's essence in a stream or a hill or a tree or all the other places you look for gods. The true God came to earth as a human being - died - and God raised him from the dead. Now you've got a short time to decide whether this is the true God or not. Because he's coming back.

Presented with this, we know, the Greeks of the Areopagus said "thanks, that's very interesting.  We'll have a good think."

But it's a challenge for us today. Where do we put our worship? Into the society we live in - into political creeds - into our own pleasure, our own belongings, our own self-image? Do we create our own unknown gods - because we don't know that they are gods? Or do we put all our hope in the God who made everything, in whom we live and move and have our being - who does not exist just as a philosophical concept or a reason to sing pretty hymns and burn incense, but exists as the force behind the universe, and as the man who died on a cross to show us what he's like?

That unknown God has made himself known. If we gaze on Jesus, we will know him more and more.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Fear of Hell Fire

I was just thinking back to the days before I became a Christian.

Now, it's a recorded fact of parish history that my family were Extremely Primitive Methodists.  These faithful people rejected all use of artificial heating and lighting during worship. They were a devout folk, who suffered terribly from chilblains. Especially in the cold winter of 1962-3, when they were wiped out during a particularly long sermon.

My parents were blessed to be away that particular week. Returning to find that Bogwulf Chapel was full of dead Wesleyans, they resolved not to bring their children up in any faith at all. They figured this would increase our chances of not dying in cold churches.

As a result, my siblings and I were brought up with no identifiable religion. Sure, my grandfather was a great fan of "Songs of Praise" - at least until that awful accident involving the hay bailer that meant my father inherited the Big House. But I was given an upbringing free from dogma and certainty. I received my degree in Chemistry, and was prepared for a life in the secular world.

But then, in my early 20s, I was presented with an unexpected outlook on life. That the reliable, consistent world I had always believed in was underpinned with a reliable, consistent Deity in whom "we live and move and have our being." That this universe, which has produced the amazing attribute of creatures with personalities, might actually have been brought into being by person or persons. Who were / was deeply involved in my life - interested in, and loved, me.

I was drawn by love and grace.  I wasn't terrified by Hell. Wasn't running from sin. Not seeking to flee the fear of the wrath to come.

Oh no.  The Church had to tell me about all that, after I became a Christian.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Politicians Who Have Been Treated Nearly as Unfairly as Donald Trump

Since nobody has suffered worse than Donny, how about the people who got close...


  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Sir Thomas More
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Joan of Arc
  • Harry Wu
  • Lady Jane Grey
  • Benedicto Kiwanuka
  • Jo Cox
  • Alexander Dubček
  • Leon Trotsky
  • Olaf Palme
  • Mohammad Najibullah

Still, people have been mean to Donald Trump.  Worse all round.

All Religions and Nones

Looking at the rise of the "nones" - those of no religion - and seeing a real marketing - sorry, mission - opportunity.

I suspect the nones phenomenon will be temporary. Firstly because nonreligious people tend to breed less than religious ones. But also because we are entering strange days worldwide. And dark, uncertain times create a need for certainty, a narrative that all will be OK. And the neoliberal faith that told us that everything was brilliant has been convincingly shown to be untrue.

Obviously there will always be people that put their faith in an allegedly perfect old bloke with a beard who will look after us all.  But frankly I don't believe Jeremy Corbyn will get elected as PM. So the 400 people who follow him around will have to find another Messiah soon. That shouldn't be a problem to them. They've followed a few.

So, to step into this spiritual void, I'm creating the Beaker Nones Retreat. The perfect pilgrimage for people of all religions and nones.

DAY 1

12 noon - welcome and lunch

2 pm - a nice walk in the countryside (nymphs please stay in the steam. No point sowing doubt so early.)

4 pm - afternoon tea and cakes

5 pm - "Enya in the Afternoon" with joss sticks and tea lights

6.30 pm - Supper

8 pm - Workshop - "What's it all about?"

9.30 - Bar (donations only - no licence)

DAY 2

8 am - "Thought for the Day" from the Cat's Book of Wisdom

8.30 am - Breakfast

9 am - The Waterboys: Seeing the whole of the Moon

11 am - Cafe Non-church  (coffee in the Beaker Barista Bar, where we've decked a coffee shop out with pews for that traditional feel)

11 am - for the kids - Messy Non-Church (drawing, basically)

1 pm - Lunch

2.30 pm - Ain't Science Great? A look at the wonders of the universe in such a way we all go "Woo!" But without any woo.

4 pm - Herbal Tea. It tastes vile, but you feel good.

5 pm - A walk in the Woods. (Dryads please confine yourselves to the trees. Don't want to shake anyone's faith.)

6 pm - Myth, Magick, Law Codes, History, Biography - how to tell the difference. And still make category errors.

7 pm - Supper

8 pm onwards - The Great Silence. As everyone sneaks off to the pub.

DAY 3

8 am - Morning Rituals: Shaking heads sadly, muttering about last night, looking sheepish

9 am - Breakfast-  Muesli. It's like Calvinism but without the happy bit for some at the end.

10 am - A Few Final Thoughts-  Hnaef tells us all about the brilliant Red Hat he got in America.

11 am - Tennis. Nobody understands the rules and nobody knows how to do it. Except posh people. Just like the Church of England, thinking about it.

1 pm - Lunch and Departure to the real world.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Why is this Not News?

I dunno.  We had 57 people at yesterday's Nylon Night Shirt Nocturne service.

Not a thing on the Mainstream Media.  Anybody would think they're trying to keep nylon-based alt:liturgy services out of the news.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Service for the Last Game at White Hart Lane

Archdruid: The last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Man Utd's last game at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: Rooney's last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Harry Kane's last goal at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last football game last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Pochettino's last game at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: Sky Sports' last game at White Hart Lane.

All: Gary Neville's last commentary from White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: Spurs' last home game at White Hart Lane.

All: The last game in North London at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The Bishop of Willesden's last game at White Hart Lane.

All: His last Twitter complaint from the last game at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last kick off at White Hart Lane.

All: Lloris's last save at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last throw in at White Hart Lane.

All: The last goal at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The last free kick at White Hart Lane.

All: The last corner kick at White Hart Lane..

Archdruid: The last final game of the season at White Hart Lane.

All: The last final whistle at White Hart Lane.

Archdruid: The final sulk from Mourinho at White Hart Lane.

Burton Dasset: What is White Hart Lane?


(Inspired by the relentless reminders of Sky Sports)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

1970s Week of Prayer

Reflecting the determination of both the Labour and Conservative Parties to return us to different aspects of the 1970s, we are celebrating a 70s Week of Prayer.

In our "exciting" 70s worship, we will sing exclusively from contemporary Christian music of the 1970s. The sermons will feature all the most contemporary theological themes - that God is dead, that the Bible was made up, that heaven, hell and judgement don't exist and that we should have a deep interest in the "true" historical Jesus never really existed.

Remarkably, the mixture of Sounds of Living Waters, Timothy Dudley-Smith and Sydney Carter that we will be using for our worship this week is exactly the same as that found when churches in 2017 decide they need to sing something "modern".

The "Punk Eucharist" on Sunday will be an attempt to attract the "Youth" which will utterly fail, as Hnaef, resplendent in a red hat and safety pins, tells everybody how hip he is. NB no spitting.

After each service, we will discover that the selection of Austin and Hillman cars in which people have driven to Church will not start, and hold an Act of Jump-Starts in the car park.

On Monday, our Liturgy of Power Cuts will include the lighting of candles and tipping of rubbish in the street.

Monday will also be the last day of our 70s Worship Theme Week.  That's right. It's a three day week.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Service for the First Day of Hayfever

Archdruid: Peace be... Atchoo!

All: And also Atchoo..

Hymn: Here Comes the Sun

Archdruid: Hay, hay whadya say?

All: Pollen blew your mind away.

Archdruid: Atchoo!

All: And Atchoo too.

Reading:

All flesh is like grass
But not all flesh likes grass.
Let righteousness flow like streams of tears
Flowing down the face of the Archdruid.
Let our love burn as hot
As the irritation in her eyes.
Let us be as pollen to the world
In principle a good thing, but irritating to everyone we encounter.

The Offering of Useless Folk Remedies

Archdruid: Local honey! Lovely. I'll put it on my toast. It's useless for hay fever obviously.

Richard Dawkins: Did someone mention honey?

All: Leave it, Richard. That's all in the past.

Archdruid: Atchoo!

All: And Atchoo too!

Hymn: All things blight and miserable, all pollen mean and small.

Blessing

Archdruid: Atchoo!

All: Bless you!

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Apple Blossom and Rhubarb Service

What a wonderful Apple Blossom and Rhubarb service that was!  A celebration of all that is best about the Spring.

Albeit in the case of the rhubarb, I'm not convinced the service will have helped.  Bolted something chronic this year. 

Now we all know that rhubarb bolts when the plant's under stress. And Marston has suggested maybe it's suffering from the dry winter.  But I reckon - given its red colour - that it's actually thinking about the General Election. A plant that is happiest in the former industrial areas of Yorkshire? It clearly can't believe what Jeremy Corbyn is doing.

Somebody suggested dumping a load of manure on it. But I'm not convinced that Theresa May's approach to Brexit is going to help that much,

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Consecration of the Druid of the Doily Shed

I see a heretical Anglican sect  - believing in Lay Presidency - has apparently ordained itself a bishop in Newcastle, despite the fact the person concerned has been a curate at an Anglican Church for about 30 years. I guess in the end he got fed up with running the youth group.

Had the same myself a few years ago. The Quivering Brethren decided they wanted a rep somewhere closer to the middle of the country, and appointed Yardley Gobion as the "Druid of the Doily Shed". Their belief being that old Yardley would thereby enable them to make inroads into the Beaker Folk, drawing the gentle people of Husborne Crawley into a religion that involved no pointy hats, no women Archdruids and a lot of quivering.

So he spent a while sat there among the doilies, issuing scary threats about the afterlife,  and occasionally quivering. But ultimately their choice of the Doily Shed as an operating base for the new Druid was flawed. What with it having a lock and everything. And me having the key.

If you were wondering, the current record for eating nothing but doilies until resigning a Druidship is 2 days. And he spent the next few days in isolation in the loo. Nobody has tried it since.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Popular Alliance

Brothers and Sisters. It has become clear that, for too long, by being divided against each other, we have allowed the oppressive right-wing hegemony to rule.

There is only one way for us to defeat the Romans. And that is for us to unite in a Popular Alliance.

So we call upon the People's Front of Judea, the Judean People's Front, Judean Popular People's Front, the Essenes, the Campaign for Free Galilee and the Zealots to join in the common struggle.

Although we may have trouble with the Popular Front.

Splitter.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

That Was the Church that Wasn't

Somewhat belatedly I have read Peter Hitchens' article on the good old C of E as he remembers it.

There used to be an old saying among folklorists. They said that people always used to say it was the previous generation that believed in fairies. Maybe in the same way people always think it was their childhood - or the last generation - when the Church of England was last truly the Church of England.

England's Dreaming

To some degree this is always a myth. Let's look at the history of the C of E since the Reformation. First up it got converted back to Catholicism - then back again .Then a certain amount of Prayer Book-based stability under Elizabeth and James I - then the Puritans threw all the organs out on the grounds that any kind of enjoyment was unbiblical. Many village churches then had "quires" or "bands" right up to the Oxford Movement. So in Thomas Hardy's own village of Stinsford the tradition of singing with an organ goes back no further than about 1840. About the same time that Hawker of Morwenstow invented the Harvest Festival.

By that time, the Industrial Revolution was underway. Many left the churches, headed into the big cities and took to lives of poverty, vice and not getting up on Sunday mornings. The figure for regular worshippers, at the height of the Victorian Church's power, was about 40% of the population - but a tiny fraction of that in the poor districts of London. It declined into the early 20th Century. And while the upper classes continued to provide their younger, less intelligent sons to be ministers, the upper classes themselves barely bothered to go to church otherwise.

So Peter Hitchens' long-lasting tradition - the good old C of E at prayer - really only began in the middle of the 19th Century. And really only lasted till the early decades of the 20th Century. The timeless beauty of the BCP and the KJV may go back 400 or so years - but the traditions built around them are bumpy, uneven and - for the most part - of terribly short duration. The good old C of E, like folk dance, children dancing round a maypole, arts n crafts and Imperialism, is a Victorian invention. We may not see its like again. But then we probably never really did.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Liturgy of Ed Winchester

Archdruid: Hi! I'm Ed Winchester!

Hnaef: No - I'm Ed Winchester!

Spartacus: No - I'm Ed Winchester!

Young Keith: I'm Ed Winchester! And so's my wife!

All: We're Ed Winchester!

Ed Winchester: So who am I?


The Archdruid's General Election Piety

If there's two things an election generates in the world of Social Media, it's snark and piety.

Snark we can accept as a given, I believe. So let's turn to piety - or possibly piousness. Never know the difference. People love their pious clichés. Mostly the people to the Left. The C of E may be the Tory Party at prayer, but if you're looking for a set of uplifting abstract concepts to give everybody unlimited benefits in an unspecified future, Socialism is a lot closer to a religion.

But the important thing about piety is - it gets retweets. Your little trite "This election, vote for the kind of party your puppy would" is gonna get more airplay than "I'm not convinced a commitment to leaving the Single Market will have long-term upside benefits on East Midlands job creation."

So my turn. What do I want to see?

I want a Britain that we can all unite behind. One where jobs fall from trees and there is a community centre on every street corner. A place where, given enough cynicism and hatred, even people who didn't go Cambridge can make a living as comedians.

A land where tax is low and benefits are high. Where schools produce open-minded astronauts to fill the endless demand for space jobs. Where only the politicians' jobs are replaced by robots.

I want a land where our borders are open to everybody - except terrorists and people coming to take our jobs. Where smoking is not just forbidden in public buildings, but smokers are openly persecuted. Where nobody ever commits crime - not because of fear of being caught, or overcrowded riot-ridden prisons, but because they just don't want to.

I want a land where, despite pulling out of Europe and refusing to pay our dues and acting like the English Channel is 4,000 miles wide, we are more prosperous than today, with the money to achieve social justice and world-leading businesses. Where we can change everything, yet go on as we are.

Sorry. Sorry. Dunno what happened there. Got carried away. That last paragraph is just wishful thinking.

Monday, 1 May 2017

May Morning

As I get older I wonder whether these old traditions are really worth it.

I mean, yeah. Dancing around in the dews of midnight to celebrate the mid-point between astronomical milestones. You can see the attraction. But once you get past 50 you start to wonder whether just turning in after "Line of Duty" might not be a better idea.

So I left it to Hnaef. He's a bit younger. And he's got a new Red Hat which he thinks gives him magical powers. So he supervised the ignition of the Wicker Person while I watched with a gin and tonic from the study windows.

Not such a bad casualty count this year - four minor burns and one person hit by an exploding potato.

Meanwhile in the Trim Valley, the letters to the Church Magazine are out again. And people frolicking in those parts want to watch out for the ubiquitous camera of Dr Ireland... 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Annual Moot Meeting - Agenda

1.  Opening devotions and prayers that this won't go on too long

2. Minutes of the last meeting.  All will approve them as nobody can remember the last meeting.

3. Explanations as to why nobody has done anything about the matters arising from the last meeting. Legitimate excuses include:
a) Forgot
b) Definitely going to do it this year
c) Died
d) Going to do it next week, for sure.
e) Made up claims to have done something.

4. Treasurer's Report:
a)Why we are in such a poor financial state.
b) Open discussion: Why we can't do anything about it.
c) Tutting about the price of heating these days.

5. Archdruid's Report. Including why everybody I get frustrated with all year, is in fact invaluable.

6. Property Report

7. Mission Report
a) Annual explanation why the Mission Committee hasn't met
b) Vague assurances to meet this year,

8. Membership Report (we're all a year older)

9. Another Other Business: Free-form grandstanding about hobby horses, saved up for 12 months

10.  Closing devotions and thanksgiving this only happens once a year

Apologies for Absence will be derived by trying to remember all the people who aren't here.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lament for the Fall of the Garden Bridge

Fallen! Fallen is the Bridge that Never Was!
The partners of Ove Arup weep into their trebles.

The council tax payers of London weep
for their hard-earned money has been poured into the Thames.

They have cast their bread on the waters.
Will it ever return to them?

The Temple of Joanna is no more than drawings on a wall.
A glint in the poneytail of a bald, 50 year old hipster.

Looks perfectly nice without a garden

The parakeets have nowhere to rest
and the urban foxes no place to find a home.

It would have been an oasis on a river
Pointlessly spanning the Thames.

When a cycle bridge might at least have reduced the traffic
and done wonders for the Lycra industry.

Two projects Boris Johnson put his name to
Three follies he tried to foist on the public.

An airport in the sea, a bridge with no sense
And Brexit, which devours the money of those that vote for it.

He's not funny.
He's a privileged idiot.

Service for Ed Balls Day

Archdruid: Ed Balls.

All: And Ed Balls to you to.

Hymn (to the tune of "Go West" or "Give Thanks with a Grapefruit Tart")

Ed Balls, E-d Balls
Ed Balls, E-d Balls.
Ed Balls, Ed Balls
Ed Balls, Ed Balls. (Repeat)

Reading: Vanity of vanities

Collect

May we, who are every day afflicted with cares on every side
Pay more attention to what we are saying than what others say about us.
Keep us from accidentally typing dodgy Google search terms into our Social Media postings
And deliver us from screenshots.
Lest we be like Ed Balls, reduced from a heavyweight politician
To being that podgy bloke on the telly.
Amen.

Liturgical Dance


Archdruid: Ed Balls to you

All: And Ed Balls to you too.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Collect for Asparagus

Kelvin Holdsworth has already done most of the jokes about Worcester Cathedral's service of blessing asparagus.

So instead I shall just offer up this Collect.

NB before the reading of the prayer, the sparrow grass should be asperged with an aspergillum. This joke actually works better in French, but still.

Oh God, who has taught us that all people are but grass, and who sees every sparrow that falls,
May we, whose wee turns sulfurous when we eat the blessed asparagus, remember there is a place where everything smells like that, all the time, and forever. And so be encouraged ever to stay on the narrow path, between the raised beds, that leads to your garden of delights.  Amen.

Monday, 24 April 2017

A Cheeky Chancel

Reflecting on the news from last month that a parishioner had accused the vicar of Maulden Church of installing surreptitious children's furniture.  And pondering the concept of a "cheeky" beer or - as is most often quoted - Nando's. Where someone has fitted in a sneaky food or alcohol-based treat that they shouldn't.

What terms should we give to those church improvement features that the minister has slipped into the building without the powers that be knowing? Here are some suggestions.
A Dodgy Doge

A brazen building project
A cheeky underfloor heating system
A clandestine clerestory
A covert communion table
A crafty carpet
An insolent installation of a toilet in the bell tower
Some mischievous misericords
A naughty nave
A quick quire-sacking
A saucy ailse
A secret monstrance
A shadowy pew-removal
A sneaky transept
A subversive east-facing altar
A surreptitious children's corner
An unannounced altar rail
An undercover undercroft
An unexpected Asparagusfest
An unverified coffee bar
A well-publicised modernism

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Defending a Traditional Marriage Stance

GafCon plan to put in a flying bishop in the United Kingdom to defend a "Traditional Marriage Stance."

I have no idea what a traditional marriage stance is. Presumably it's the pose traditionally-married blokes, in socks, shirt and pants, take at the end of the bed, while their traditionally-married wives reassure themselves that the measure of our lives is three score and ten. Or maybe four score if we have the strength.

Some More Things You Don't Want to Hear in a Sermon

"Fourthly"

"Which takes me back to the days when I worked in that doily factory."

"God loves a cheerful giver. Which brings me onto the subject of the state of the organ."

"And if God is the vodka, and Jesus is the tonic, then the Holy Spirit is in a very real sense the ice."

"So go and talk to someone you don't know very well....."

"I think it would help if I translated from the original Aramaic."

"Six points in closing."

"So what three things have we learnt about resisting impure thoughts? Randolph - come and tell us what will help you,"

"Turns out the Rapture was last night. I'm as surprised as you are."

"When understanding this very tricky point in theology I always think it's best to consider the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics."

"This illustration probably is easier to understand if you have watched all the episodes of "Terry and June." Especially that classic half hour where Terry wants to be an author."

"And then on the Tuesday we went to the ruins at Akrotiri."

"Of all the quotations I love from Karl Barth, maybe this one...."

"I don't normally talk about my operation but I do feel that, when preaching on Deuteronomy 23:1, it may have some relevance."


St George's Day is Every Day

So I was all set to celebrate the St George's Day service today. Got the dragon costume for Burton Dasset to wear. And set Charlii up with the lance with which Burton was terribly hurt last year. I love tradition. And the Beaker version of the story, in which St Georgina tells the hapless princess that she's a victim of patriarchy, sitting around waiting to be rescued, and should kill the dragon herself, is always a triumph.

But then a vicar on Twitter told me it was tomorrow.

So instead of holding it today we're going to hold it on the Sunday nearest the 23rd April, like we always do.

Which is today.

Now I just wish I could remember which book of the Bible the story of St George is in.

Does the Church of England still think it's Shakespeare's birthday? Or does that get transferred too?

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Folding Pastoral Cycle

Brilliant new bike I've bought for when in London.

It folds up, and it's really handy for cycling from declining congregations to thriving churches where everybody smiles and all the leaders wear chinos.

That's right.

It's a Brompton.
By Jim.Henderson - Own work, Public Domain,

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Welcome Notice

Hello!

Delighted to have you drop in! Please try and shove a couple of quid in the money chest. All major currencies are accepted although , f you must donate sterling, can you also drop a few Euro cents in. We're hedging against an SNP-LibDem-UKIP coalition.
Please note there are no valuables left in the church. The last vicar made off with all the silver.

Harmonium

Please do not play tunes on the fine 19th century harmonium. You'll only upset Elsie. 50 years she's been playing hear on Sundays and we're yet to recognise a hymn.

Postcards

If you want to pay for postcards - yes we know they're dog eared. If you'd hung around this damp  building for years so would you be. Have you seen the vicar? Sorry state

Guest Book

There's a guest book on the postcard stand. Feel free to leave us a note. But out of courtesy, and to help us with our fundraising and communications, could you follow a few guidelines.

Keep your handwriting neat. Some people's writing looks like a spider has fallen in an ink blot and staggered across the book. And that does occasionally happen. The biro's unreliable and we've some big spiders.

In the column that says "Address" please put your address. Not some comments about your feelings on entering the building. "Peaceful" may well be a place in the United States for all I know. But without a Zip code it's just a feeling. And we're not really interested in your feelings.

If you are from Abroad please enter your full name and address. This is definitely because we want to keep you in touch. I cannot stress enough that we don't have a team of international jewel thieves, specialising in houses whose owners are away. Definitely not.

Bats

Don't be disturbed if you hear scratching from the bats living in the roof space. They will almost certainly not  fly down en masse and cling on your face, biting and scratching in a blood frenzy. Honestly, it's been weeks. You might want  to use an umbrella. That's to avoid droppings. And very rarely to keep the bats at bay while feral badgers invade the church and chew your shoes.  Note that bats are protected species. So should you succeed in killing one, can you stick it in the chute marked "solid fuel". Costs a fortune heating this place.

Spirits

If you sit in any of the pews, don't be surprised if the ghost of a former parishioner appears to tell you it's their pew. If you've accidentally sat in Norm Lyvington's seat, please note the box on the pillar, bearing the message "break glass for exorcist." If you're lucky you'll be able to get help before you find yourself unaccountably complaining about the repeal of the Corn Laws.

Green Men and Gargoyles

You will find a number of fascinating grotesques and other images around the place. If you see one with a spectacularly ugly face and wide-open mouth, that's Major Dumpling. Just beat him away with one of the bat umbrellas.