Thursday, November 30, 2006

Casino Royale

Reflections on the latest Bond film: there is a strong subplot running all the way through it about identity and manhood. At the beginning, Bond wins his double-0 identity by killing 2 people, and for the rest of the film we see his character struggling with what kind of person he is to be. Is it the 'half monk, half killing machine' that M wants him to be, or is it a true man, stripped of his 'armour', which he seems to be becoming as he falls in love with the glamourous Vesper? It is at his most vulnerable that Bond seems to be most of a man: emotionally naked he becomes capable of loving, physically naked under torture he shows extreme bravery.

However, by the end of the film Bond has decided to trust no-one ('you've learnt one thing then', remarks M on the 500th mobile phone conversation of the film), and the invulnerable, armour-plated Bond is back. The making of 007 is completed with the final line, which is the first time we hear him utter the lines normally heard at the start of every Bond film 'the name's Bond, James Bond'. The film presents us not just with the usual multinational Bond locations, rich villains, chases, love interests and gripping drama, it also presents us with the question 'what does it mean to be a real man?' and the way that Bond comes to terms with that. Is manhood about love and bravery? Or is it about invulnerability?

Great to have a Bond film at last that makes you think. And some real acting. 8 out of 10, if you edit out the saggy bit 2/3 of the way through where nothing happens, and what does happen doesn't seem to make any sense.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Evolution - A Dove Film

A new film from Dove shows how the "effortless" beauty we see on
billboards is actually created.

What happened to God-given beauty?

ashes prediction 2

I stick with everything I said last week. But we have to play Panesar instead of Giles or Anderson.

Jesus was right, and other things

At a very exciting prayer meeting last night at the Community Church, hearing about various things which are going on in the town - the expansion of the Lords Larder, a new Pregnancy advice service, new opening in schools for youth ministry etc. Lots to be thankful for.

It was great to get prayed for too. Inspired by the previous speaker (after a day at an 'Archdeaconry Retreat' with clergy on average 20 years older than me, it was great to see a proper young church leader), who'd quoted a couple of bible passages, I spoke about Luke 10 and the way it had played a part in us coming to Yeovil. Jesus speaks about staying in the places where you get a welcome, and it's been interesting to find several places where there's not been just polite tolerance of the church, but genuine welcome. The local school (Preston Primary) was one of those this morning. Jesus says that what will happen - go in my name and look for people who welcome you (the 'person of peace'), and lo and behold it happens.

The church is in the role of host as well as guest. It's so like God that one of the smallest and more elderly congregations in the town (St. Peters) will soon be hosting the Urban Warriors youth cafe. Understandably, there's a bit of the 'what have we let ourselves in for' mixed in with the faith, but those who host missionaries get blessed too - peace rests upon them (Luke 10) and we may find out that we were hosting Jesus in person (Matthew 25)

One other thing I'm currently wrestling with: how do you deal with problems? Do you pray and let God deal with them, or come up with a plan for tackling them yourself? As a pragmatist I tend towards option 2, but am I wasting a lot of energy, and being faithless? I guess Jethro is my patron saint: Moses has a problem (overwhelmed with demand for his adjudication in disputes) and Jethro comes up with an organisational solution (delegate).

Saturday, November 25, 2006

time for another cartoon

from Cartoon Church, where else? And don't mention the cricket.

wearing crosses

The following copied from the news section of the Church of England website

Archbishop of Canterbury comments on British Airways
24 November 2006
At a press conference in Rome today, November 24, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, gave the following comments in response to questions about British Airways and the wearing of the cross by its uniformed staff.

On his own position, the Archbishop said:
“ … I said some weeks ago that I regarded it as absolutely basic that people of any faith should have the right to display the signs of their faith commitment in public; that’s the point from which I start. What I find deeply confusing about the present situation is the response of BA, which doesn’t seem to make it clear whether they’re simply talking about regulations, concerning a piece of jewellery or whether they are in some sense claiming that the cross is a source of offence.
“Now if BA is really saying or implying that the wearing of a cross in public is a source of offence, then I regard that as deeply offensive and, in a society where religious liberty and the expression of religious commitment is free, I regard it as something really quite serious. If they’re saying that it’s to do with matters of health and safety, I would question whether that is a sensible kind of regulation, whether in fact there really is a problem here, and I would ask them to look very seriously at this, given the enormous reaction of dismay that’s been caused in the Christian community.”

On flying to Rome with British Airways, Dr Williams said:
“All of this came up last weekend in its present form; I have a responsibility for proper use of the resources of staff and money and reorganising at short notice expensively and complicatedly doesn’t seem to me a responsible use given the time scale. I’ll have to be consulting with others in the Church of England about our whole attitude to BA in which, as you know, we have some financial investment; that’s a question that’s already been raised for discussion with the Church Commissioners in London.
“It’s just perhaps worth noting with some irony that amongst the duty-free jewellery items for sale are some crosses.”

My main problem over public displays of Christian faith is living up to them. Sometimes I wonder about taking the fish off my car if I'm going to be late for a meeting, but then decide it would just make me even later.....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

angel service

'Lets have a go and see if this works' no.1

'Celebration of Angels'

After an eye-opening day hearing about the disconnection between the church and people with spiritual awareness, an angel-themed service at the Abbey Manor Community Centre, exploring the role of angels in the Christmas story, people's beliefs about angels, and a best-dressed angel competition for the tinies. (and maybe even the grown-ups, we might get someone dressed as the Angel of the North).

Marketing it to the preschool and school groups in the area, since they'll all be making angel costumes anyway.

Will it work? Who knows. December 10th 10.30am, and if you've got a vid or DVD if 'It's a Wonderful Life', that might come in handy.....

Monday, November 20, 2006

ashes predictions

11pm Wednesday night, possibly the only good reason for having Sky, though because we haven't it's 11.20 Thursday night on BBC2 for highlights (hoorah for the BBC)

Australia v England for the Ashes.

My predictions:
If the full Australian side stay fit:
Australia 3 - England 1

If McGrath or Warne gets injured
Australia 2-England 2

Top run scorer for England: Andrew Strauss
Top wicket taker for England: Freddie Flintoff
Top run scorer for Australia: Justin Langer
Top wicket taker for Australia: Shane Warne (easy one that)

I look forward to being proved wrong and England whitewashing the Aussies with Pietersen and Panesar taking the honours. Anything would be better than the last tour.

If anyone in Yeovil area wants to plant a fresh expression of church based around staying up all night watching the live matches from Oz, count me in.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Coke lite advert

Sadly was too busy to do this Coke Lite advert so they found some other guy. What would Jesus do?

can the church be spiritual?

"Antiquated, boring, dull, bigoted, unfriendly, inflexible, alienating, irrelevant, narrow, hypocritical, unreal, nerve-wracking, corrupt, judgemental. "

Just a few of the adjectives used about the church by people 'outside' it. One interviewee in a research project ('Beyond the Fringe', interviewing 60 agnostics about faith and spiritual issues) said “I think the established church could be tried in a court of justice and could be found guilty of killing off spirituality”

This is scary stuff for a servant of the institution like yours truly. The upside of the research is that people are more open to the spiritual than ever: over 70% of people report having had some kind of spiritual experience. So what's going on? Are most of them deluded? Or is God active outside the boundaries of the church in a way we haven't begun to imagine?

Yvonne Richmond, missioner at Coventry Cathedral, tells of how she felt God telling her to give up all her church involvement. She handed everything over (to the dismay of the church!), and over the course of the next 10 weeks saw 10 people come to faith in Jesus through the course of normal conversation. Most of these were into spiritual stuff: spiritualists, astrology, etc., and the starting point was to affirm their spiritual quest, and spiritual experiences. Most of Richmonds work since then has come out of that experience: how does the church connect with spiritual seekers? Especially when the same seekers describe it in the ways listed above. Answers on a blogcard please.....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

car boot church

What does car boot church look like? Or is that the wrong question. Planning to wander around the local car boot sale on Sunday with some folks from church wondering about what Jesus would do if he was wandering around the car boot sale instead of in church.

would Jesus be at the car boot rather than church?
would you?

Just arranged a Christingle service at Brimsmore Garden Centre on 12th December (7pm) as part of their late evening opening. Should be fun. I'd love to have a Christmas where we had more carol services and celebrations of Jesus outside the church buildings than inside them. The great thing is that folk in the community are asking for it - we've been invited to sing at a local pub too.

quotes 2

More stuff from 'The Shaping of things to Come' by Hirsch and Frost

"When we speak of our virtues we are competitors, when we confess our sins we become brothers" (Karl Barth)

"In contrast with today, when so much of our Christianity is about being with the right people in the right places at the right time, Jesus was always in the wrong places, with the wrong people, at the wrong times. "

"None of the creeds get tot talk at all on right living, the very topic the Bible itself cannot seem to talk enough about."

"Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Chrisitan home is good actions of faith in does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw in the towel. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of the Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come. " (CS Lewis)

And in a great section on reconciling the activist and the reflective prayerful type:
"A life of action, movement, energy and striving is the best place for the reflective practices of meditation, prayer and reflection."

"We shape our tools and then our tools shape us (an insight from Marshall McCluhan). We invented the sermon (actually we borrowed the technique from the Greek and Roman philosophers) and then it reinvented us. We have become totally reliant on it. See what happens if you decide not to preach in church next Sunday. "
And you can apply the same to buildings , (we shape our bulidings, then our buildings shape us), worship songs, theological training, parishes, liturgy, etc.

"One of our friends says that if he could be the same person in three places, he would have acieved holiness. The challenge is to be the same person at church, at work, and at home."

cartoon from the man at cartoon church . It has nothing to do with the quotes (or does it?) but I like it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

atheism vs polite agnosticism

Watched 'Perfect Day: The Funeral' last night (videoed), third part of a series about a group of university chums who reunite first for new year (programme 1), then for a wedding (2) then for the funeral of 1 of the group. The funeral scene was an interesting one: half way through the Catholic service, a friend stands up after a prayer and announces that it's all wrong, Pete had no time for God and was an atheist, and wouldn't have wanted a religious service. Some of the congregation are upset with his outburst, others think he's hit the nail on the head.

Maybe the era of the polite agnostic is a myth, but people seem to be coming down more firmly on one side of the God thing or another. Richard Dawkins 'The God Delusion', is the most public face of it, but it's interesting to see it carried through in TV drama. In a recent issue of the Times, there was an article on the Dawkins book, an interview with comedian Jimmy Carr who is became a resolute atheist following a Catholic upbringing, and an article by Richard Morrison on the weakness of atheism. The interesting thing is that Morrison admits that he's recluctant to write about his faith, but he feels impelled to write about it in the present context.

Even CofE bishops are getting in on the act, with both Archbishops speaking out this week against 'public atheism' - manifested in 'seasons greetings' on Christmas cards and Santa on Christmas stamps, rather than anything about the birth of Jesus. Anyone for 'Winterval'?

So perhaps, in the wake of the veil controversies, we are starting to have a real public debate about God in public life, rather than a polite tolerance of a smattering of religion scattered like icing sugar over our Englishness. The danger for the church is that public life may conclude that it doesn't want God. But at least that will then free the church from the need to be the chaplian to people's agnosticism, on hand when people want a veil of religiousity but ignored the rest of the time.

Trouble is, the veil of religiousity can be quite an asset in mission: ask any church preparing for Christmas and the opportunities it gives for sharing the message of Jesus. Tricky one.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

red poppies

A Christian group has been urging people to swap red poppies for white ones, because the red poppy implies redemption through war.

Maybe I'm in the wrong generation, but my image of red poppies is of a field in Europe full of poppies growing where thousands of soldiers died in the needless slaughter of WW1. There's nothing redemptive about that. I'm fine with having a debate about what exactly we are remembering on Remembrance Day, and I often wonder if we need to have a Christian counterpart, for the millions of martyrs who have died in the spiritual war in order for people to find freedom through Jesus.

Remembrance Day is about the only day in the year where we're told 'don't take your freedom and prosperity for granted, it came at a price.' I think that's a good message. I don't really care what colour poppy we wear, and I think it has become a politically correct thing - everyone MP has their poppy on show at PMQ's, just as it's now an almost daily occasion in Parliament for people to outdo each other in offering condolences to anyone who's had a media-reported bereavement. Trouble is, that also makes me wonder whether I ostentatiously wear my poppy, showing how much I care, or just make my donation to the Legion and say a quiet prayer of thanks.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Sometimes, in order to see ourselves better, we need to look at situations outside of ourselves. Few of us will have been unaffected by the recent massacre of school children in the Amish community in Pennsylvania. A gun man massacred several primary aged school girls, and then killed himself. Little was said in the media of the events that followed this tragedy. Media understanding about the Amish tends to be at best ignorant, and at worst, prurient.

During the week after the murders four significant, but largely unreported events happened. First, members of the Amish eldership visited Marie Roberts, the widow of the murderer, offering forgiveness. Later, the bereaved families of the little girls invited the widow to their children’s funerals. Subsequently, those same families requested that all money sent in for the welfare of the victims should be shared with Marie Roberts and her children. Finally, more than thirty members of the Amish community attended the funeral of the killer.


more reflections here from Bishop Peter Price

divine appointments?

A good morning today, some days things seem to slot together and this was one of them:
1. Talking with a group of people about possibly putting a funding bid together from the Big Lottery fund for community buildlings, and someone else (who shall remain anonymous, just in case he gets inundated with calls from folk with building projects) revealed that someone has just started working for him and is giving 3 days a week to making funding applications. Has potential....

2. On the way out of the cafe after the meeting, met a couple who I knew from my previous life in Yeovil, and started talking about what we hoped to do on Westfield at the St. Peters church hall, and how it would be great to get the Christians on that estate, who mostly go off the estate to worship, to meet together to pray and look at how we can engage with the local community. Turns out they'd moved onto Westfield last year and were wondering if God had something to do with that, and offered their home as a place to pray.

All good stuff, and hopefully God stuff too. Now all it needs is another Christian on Westfield who reads this blog and emails to say 'I was only praying about this the other day....'

Monday, November 06, 2006

Post-match reflections

Yeovil 2 Bristol City 1.

I was there, and on Sunday morning had the voice to prove it, struggling to get through 4 hymns, a sermon and a communion prayer after shouting myself hoarse on the terrace.

What would Jesus do at a football match? Apart from being thrilled that Yeovil won, the other strong feeling I came away with was that I'd never take my children to see a Yeovil match. Some of the fans chants were quite funny, but there were some fairly choice words flying around, and I don't really want my kids saying 'Daddy, what's a w*****?' To be honest, I struggle enough with 'who made God?' and the other theological enquiries of a 3 year old.

Consumed with envy towards a neighbour who is in Australia for the next 3 weeks and hopes to get to the first Test at Brisbane. To make matters worse, the TV signal on Channel 5 has decided to go haywire, so if they're showing the highlights I won't see any of the series at all. It's almost enough to make me subscribe to Sky. On second thoughts, no it isn't.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

1 night in november

Standing on the doorstep watching the fireworks over Huish Park, and being suitably impressed

News footage of the Bridgewater carnival, tens of thousands of lightbulbs on 160 decorated floats, on a perfect frosty November night.

Global warming and the Stern report, do I admire the lights and fireworks or calculate the carbon emissions?

Do we have to be stern to be good, or can we have fun and save the planet at the same time?

Moses and risk

Read Numbers 31 this morning, probably not my favourite book of the Bible, and I gave up concentrating once it got on to tallies of sheep, but 2 things jumped out. Moses has been told by God to fight the Midianites and:
1. It'll be the last thing he does before he dies, and hands over leadership to the next generation.
2. As part of the battle, they take some of the holy items from the tabernacle out with the army (v6).

In other words, Moses puts obedience before self-preservation, and part of going into battle is to take risks even with the things that are holiest to the community - there is always the chance of losing, and therefore the sacred things being carried off as plunder by the enemy.

Moses could have disobeyed God, thinking 'If I'm going to die after fighting the Midianites, I shall put off the battle as long as possible'. The self-preservation instinct means we will always put off the battle as long as possible, but the Cross may call for us to do something more radical, to give up our life in order to find it again. Christians, and churches, may need to do something which looks like death, maybe something which is death, because it's about God's purposes, not our self-preservation.

Which links to the risk thing. Can churches, and Christians, risk their 'holy things' because that's the only way we do God's will? Can you do mission without taking risks? And if mission shapes the church (buildings, ministry, finance, priorities etc.) then shouldn't risk-taking be something which comes naturally to us?

A simple exercise: list 3 things which are most precious about your church building. Are you prepared to risk them for the sake of mission, and seeing people come to know Jesus?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

missed trick?

A couple of loud knocks on the door as we were putting the kids to bed, both ignored, prompted us to stick a notice to the door asking people not to knock or ring as we had sleeping children. It worked, so all credit to the local youth for respecting that. Wonder if we missed a trick, as new neighbours, with the chance to say hello and do something generous, rather than pulling up the drawbridge.

Buffet ministry

At the moment I feel like a very hungry man at a massive Chinese buffet (now there's a great thought..), taking a sample of every dish on offer with a view to coming back and filling my plate with the stuff I like the best. With both hats of my job, in the parish and across the Deanery, there are lots of things to get to grips with, even though I'll only be actively working on a few of them. I feel like I'm collecting stacks of information, meeting lots of people, trying to map out in my head what's happening, and hopefully will be able to do some distilling (there's another great thought...) so I can focus in on just a few things.

It's amazing to think that Jesus came to save the world, and did it by preaching and healing in a few small villages around a fishing lake. God knows everything about focusing on the small things in order to achieve the big things.

Again it comes back to prayer, taking time out to reflect, to listen to God. I'm already getting into a working pattern that makes that difficult to carve out. Maybe I also need the divine gift of trancing out so that I don't end up trying to remember everything I've been told. On Monday, whilst a fellow minister/blogger was meditating on socks at a training day, I was taking copious notes about obscure bits of government legislation affecting church buildings. Why?

And if anyone knows of a good chinese buffet within reach of Yeovil, let me know.