Sunday, December 24, 2006

He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all

May God bless you this Christmas, and may the presence of Jesus fill your hearts and lives.

"Leave me alone with God
as much as may be.
As the tide draws the waters
close in upon the shore,
make me an island, set apart,
alone with You, God,
holy to You.

Then with the turning of the tide,
prepare me to carry Your presence
to the busy world beyond,
the world that rushes in on me,
till the waters come again
and fold me back to you."

(Aidan Prayer, from the Northumbria Community)

The next new posting will be in early January, if I can think of anything worth saying. In the meantime, happy new year too!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

religion and society

2 links today:

A Guardian online leader about religion and society, arguing for a more secular approach. Unfortunately, one might add, secular doesn't mean value free. It's because secular government and society have cut across deeply held religious convictions that Christians and other faith groups are campaigning (e.g. Jerry Springer the opera, the Sexual Orientation regulations, Debt relief for the developing world). In response, governments are now looking at partnership with faith communities.

We should also resist the secular tendency to put faith in a box: 'private morality and prayer are your own personal business, leave everything else to us.' No. World poverty, global warming, city bonuses, community regeneration, housing policy, reproductive science, health, education, war and peace, these are all issues for Christians. Because Jesus is Lord of all there is no sacred/secular divide, everything is sacred. Trouble is, because we only get quoted when we talk about sex, people think that's all the church is bothered about, and the sacred/secular divide is reinforced. I just look at the social programmes of local churches in Yeovil (food provision, pregnancy counselling, youth centre, provision for families, night shelter) to know that we're a long way towards breaking that down. However, (here's a challenge) we're good at engaging with poverty and need, how about engaging with riches and success?

And a very sobering story from Australia about 2 Pakistani Christians who fled persecution in their own country only to be persecuted again. This time, it was under the auspices of a secular law aimed at preventing religious antagonism. The effect seems to have been the opposite. We avoided having laws like this by 1 vote earlier this year.

Jesus would have been on trial much earlier if calling a Pharisee a whitewashed tomb, or telling religious people 'you are wrong because you do not know the scriptures', had sent his adversaries bawling to the law courts. If a Muslim and I cannot say to one another 'I think you are wrong and here's why', without the fear that one or other of us will take offence and go to the police, then religious debate is dead, religious tolerance is dead, and God help us.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Blast from the Past: On knowing when to stop

3 cricketers are in the news for retiring today: the great Shane Warne, the almost equally great Glenn McGrath, and the fairly good Steve Harmison (only retiring from one-day cricket so he can focus on tests).

Warne has retired because Australia have won back the Ashes - he admitted in interview that if they'd lost again, he would have carried on playing until the next series. Warne seems to have recognised that without the Ashes to win back, his zeal for the game would have waned, so now is the right time to stop. Harmison has recognised that it's better to be very good at 1 thing than ok at 2.

Robert Warren, writing about healthy churches, says that a healthy church is something that 'does a few things well', and Harmison seems to be following that kind of path.

Knowing when to stop, or when to prune back our activities so that we can do what we do well, rather than skimping on it, or losing focus because we have so much else do to, is quite an art. Jesus knew when to stop preaching in villages by going off to pray. In conversation with his Father, he reminds himself that success is not the only goal, and that he cannot be a slave to it. The biggest factor for Jesus was a clear sense of what he was here for. As one writer (I think it was Bill Hybels) put it: what enables us to say no is that we have a bigger 'yes' burning inside of us. In other words, we're able to stop things, prune back, or resist the urge to take on more, by being clear in our own hearts and minds about what is important and what isn't.

This is a challenge at a personal and a corporate level. There are lots of things running in churches which were once very good, and are still very good. There are other things which were once very good, and are now struggling on in the vain hope that God will wave a magic wand and former glories will be restored. The days when the Sunday school was bursting at the seams, or when we had a great choir, or when the worship was really inspiring etc. etc. So the Sunday school ploughs on with 2 members, the choir dotted around the choirstalls are drowned out by the congregation, and the music group sings the same songs in the same way as they did 10 years ago because that was what worked then.

The church, in one respect, is still living in fairy land. Somewhere in our psyche is the belief that if we just do what we normally do in church, but do it really well, or with a bit more prayer, or with a bit more commitment, that that will push a magic button and people will flock from all over.

There are 2 fundamental problems with this
a) Many people, even if we were the best church ever at everything, still wouldn't come. 7m are working on a Sunday, others are having their access times to their children, others are in bed after the night shift. Loads more just don't like the music, or find church buildings scary, or aren't interested in what we have to do and say.

b) This goes completely against the grain of the way Jesus and the apostles operated. Jesus went from place to place preaching. It was because he had gone out of his way to be with people where they are, that they then went out of their way to be with him. Fishing is a good illustration: you catch fish by bringing the fish into the boat with the net, but before you bring the fish in, you have to go to where the fish are. Some churches are like fishing boats on a hillside, throwing their nets onto the grass and praying 'bring them in Lord'.

Yes, people do come to us, and Christmas is the main time of year that this happens. Lets admit it, we rely on the season to do some recruiting for us: we're running an Alpha course in the New Year and have got invitations to give out to folk who come to our Christmas services. But once the nativity set is back in its box, we will go back to doing on a Sunday the same things we were doing in November, and 95% of the population will not come.

Back to Shane Warne. Do we know why we are doing what we are doing? Is the fire still burning? Is there a 'yes' burning inside us, a passion to worship, witness, comfort and heal? Or are we repeatedly photocopying an ancient glory, hoping that by magic it will come out in 3D colour instead of the usual black and white? Do we need a New Year resolution as churches to stop things, and do less? Like Harmison, do we need to divert our resources into what we're good at, and stop using them on what we're average at?

Jesus stopped residing in heaven to be born on earth. He stopped being a carpenter to preach the good news. He stopped preaching and healing in Carpernaum to minister somewhere else. The disciples stopped fishing to follow Jesus. Jesus stopped preaching and teaching in order to give himself to death on the cross for us. Maybe the starting point of mission and ministry is to stop.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Top 5 movies

According to Ceefax (I am a news snippet junkie) the top 5 UK movies of this year were
1. Pirates of the Caribbean 2
2. Casino Royale
3. Da Vinci Code
4. Ice Age 2
5. Borat.

1 is much deserved, fantastic movie, and a feature length meditation on the words of Jesus 'what does it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul?' The whole plot is driven by what Capt Jack is prepared to do to save his soul from a fate of slavery to the foul Davy Jones, and Sparrow finally redeems himself through self-sacrifice rather than self-preservation.
2 - posted my own 'review' here a couple of weeks ago,
3 - about Jesus (sort of: it's only because it's about Jesus that people bought the book/watched the film.), but a huge pile of nonsense, and the presentation of the catholic church is simply laughable.
4 - not seen it, but if it's anything like the 1st one theres lots of snow, a wooly mammoth, a sabre toothed tiger, a sloth and an ancient relative of the squirrel which drowned in the gene pool.
5 - thought about seeing it, but decided I'd probably find it too difficult to watch, despite some bits being either v funny or v perceptive. It seems to be an uncomfortable mirror to US identity & prejudice in parts, combined with a large dose of crude humour.

So plenty of starters for 10 on spiritual issues at the office party, whether you want to start from whether we have a soul and what's it worth, what does the ideal man look like (Bond vs Jesus), Jesus and what we know about him, national identity and prejudice, or with Ice Age talk about evolution and global warming. By now you're thinking I must be the least fun person to go to the movies with, as I spend more time analysing them than enjoying them...

In our youth group in Darlington a couple of years ago, we planned over 2 evenings to watch a DVD (night 1) then talk about it (night 2). I had Bruce Almighty up my sleeve, but everyone in the group wanted to watch Pirates of the Carribbean 1 (on telly this Christmas). I groaned inwardly, but we actually spent 2 hours debating the spiritual and moral questions raised by the movie. I kid you not. e.g. the need for the spilling of blood to break the curse (hmm, where have I come across that before?); whether moral codes are rules or just guidelines; the vivid description of a living hell given by Capt Barbarossa ('we drank but never quenched our thirst, we ate the best food but it tasted like dust in our mouths') etc. We loved the sword fights too.

latest u2 single

The shackles are undone
The bullet's quit the gun
The heat that’s in the sun
Will keep us when there’s none

The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The grave is now a groove
All debts are removed, ooh

Oh can’t you see what our love has done
Oh can’t you see what our love has done
Oh can’t you see what our love has done
What it’s doing to me

and a very clever video on YouTube . Should be released around March/April rather than Christmas, but it's good to be reminded that Easter and Christmas are connected!

ashes to ashes

Yes, we lost, cue mourning all round.

a few weeks ago I predicted
If the full Australian side stay fit:Australia 3 - England 1
If McGrath or Warne gets injuredAustralia 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.

Well, we can dream. The 3-1 outcome is still possible - Australia often lose the final test to England once they've beaten them, and having won the ashes they may ease up a bit. The individual predictions are all wrong - Langer may still overtake Ponting, and Pietersen and Panesar were our best players in the last test, but otherwise it shows why I'm not a cricket pundit.

Monday, December 18, 2006

...some stars and planets in scale

from mercury to vv cephei

this is just jaw-dropping.

5 things you didn't know about me

I appear to have got involved in a game of internet tag, or been 'memed' to use the jargon. Having been tagged by Ruth Gledhill, Times blogger and reporter, (just thought I'd drop a name there), I'm 'on' until I post the said '5 things' and then 'meme' 5 other people? Confused? Just follow the Ruth Gledhill link for clarity, meanwhile.....

1. I've lived at 17 addresses in the last 19 years:
- Sheffield (childhood home)
- Spitalifields E London (year out working at Spitalfields Crypt, a rehab centre for homeless alcoholic men)
- 3 addresses at university, 2 in halls then a shared house in Cowley, E Oxford, mostly with lawyers (one of whom was allergic to washing up, cause of some friction!!! I still have the microwave from then, it's done well to last 15 years)
- 5 working for Clarks Shoes in Somerset: Street, Ashcott, Peasedown St. John, Radstock, finally Shepton Mallett, at the other end of the street from the Babysham/Gaymers old English cider factory.
- 3 addresses at theological college in Nottingham. A matter of weeks after moving into our marital home, Becky and I were informed that 'The Grange', where we lived, was to be turned into offices for the Extension Studies part of the college, so we moved to Inham Nook estate in Nott'm, great local church.
- since ordination in 1998 things have settled down, only 3 addresses (Yeovil, Darlington, and now Yeovil again). I think that's enough cardboard boxes now....

2. The only vicar in the family tree was Great Uncle Frank, who died a couple of years ago. He was vicar in Sacriston, a tough mining community in the Durham coalfield, then moved to an industrial parish in the Black Country. When I was 16-17 and starting to get daft ideas about being a vicar, my parents sent me down to Warley to stay with him, in a draughty Victorian rectory surrounded by blocks of flats and factory rooves. Frank was a deeply prayerful man, but tough as old boots, and I found him quite intimidating! I'd probably have spent a lot more time with him had I not been so scared of him asking me awkward questions about my prayer life.

3. My favourite view is Dalehead in the Lake District. I've been into hillwalking since being a teenager, and there's nothing quite like looking down the Newlands Valley after that last punishing climb, on a sunny day with clouds scudding overhead. And to think that God sees that view all the time, it must be great being God.

4. My brother Adam is the creative one of the 2 of us - I used to swot for tests, Adam would fiddle about with electronics, or working out how to make explosives with ingredients available to a schoolboy from the local chemists. He's just won an award for technical creativity, a kind of teccie Oscars, at an international ceremony. I admire his creativity as a father too: one day he went out and bought a vanful of hay bales and made a fort for his 2 boys in the back garden. Puts me to shame really, I rarely have enough energy to be creative with my kids.

5. At the start of 2006 I nearly got myself signed off with depression. The previous year had been very demanding, for all sorts of reasons, then came the news that my post in Darlington may not be renewed, but that there would be a lenghty consultation process first (as there were a number of other local candidates for post reductions). With a year to go on my contract, I became a caretaker minister overnight, and my energy for everything I was doing just seemed to ooze away. I've spent a lot of time with people with depression, but always thought I was too much of an optimist and positive thinker to succumb.

5 things you now do know about me, now have to think of 5 people to 'meme'. I'll try:

Steve Tilley, Stacey Hollanby, Nigel Coke-Woods, Richard Frank, and isitgodsway. As at least 1 of these either won't know or won't remember me, 3 out of 5 will be a success.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I know you're there.....

It looks like about 20 different people visited this blog last week, to put that into perspective, Boris Johnson's blog gets between 100 and 300 comments per blog entry, but then he hosts Have I Got News For You and I don't. It has been suggested that the blog is the new vicars letter. The trouble is that there is such an overload of information in cyberspace that it's very difficult to sift. For the record, the blogs I visit most often (at least once a week, some once a day - 'so that's what he does with his time' they say) are:

Cartoon Church (Dave Walker, Church Times cartoonist)
Mustard Seed Shavings (Steve Tilley, missioner in Nailsea area)
Thinking Anglicans (Simon Sarmiento, a liberal perspective, mainly on the politicking over sexuality and who's in communion with who in the international CofE, but also provides a helpful summary of links to good religious stories in the online press every weekend)
Thoughts from the Wonderwall, run by Nigel Coke-Woods of Yeovil Methodists

More occasionally, though all useful, I've found: Jonny Baker, alternative worship pioneer, the site is a great resource for creative worship ideas, visuals, and stimulating thoughts. Also shows you what a good blog looks like! Ruth Gledhills online column for the Times, useful for stories about the Bishop of Southwark, etc. if like me you're a U2 fan, and fascinated by deep but very subtle Christian message in their songs, this website is a great resource, including attempts by churches to base sermon series on U2 songs. I personally hope U2 are the worship leaders in heaven, and if the angels are even better, then count me in...

There are lots of blogs in the area of 'emerging church'/fresh expressions, whatever you want to call it - as an area where thinking is being tested out all the time, blogs are a great way to throw ideas around and see where they land. Rather than list some, if you're interested just do a search.

One of the main benefits I get from blogs is that they expose me to debates and points of view from outside my comfort zone. It's very easy to only have in-depth discussions with people of a similar point of view, and keep a polite silence in places (e.g. clergy chapters?) where we don't know each other well enough, or know enough to guess that others see things very differently from ourselves.

There aren't the same inhibitions on the internet, with the result that it can get quite heated (you can't read facial expressions in cyberspace, so it's harder to communicate well, and easy to read the wrong thing into a posting if you're in the wrong mood), but you can also pitch straight into the middle of an argument, and then jump straight out again. The Monty Python character who wanted to buy an argument would be in paradise.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Some pictures of the lovely people at St. Peters, and the rather less lovely things happening to their hall. It's all in a good cause, work on the Youth cafe is (last I heard) ahead of schedule and below budget.

'Sing about Jesus and you'll lose your grant'

'Sing about Jesus and you'll lose your grant'
By Graeme Wilson, Political Correspondent

A toddlers' group has been warned it will lose its funding unless children stop singing songs about Jesus and it removes the word "Christian" from its title.

A senior official at Haringey council issued the warning in a letter to the group, which was set up four years ago by the Polish community in the north London borough.

The council intervened after the group contacted officials to say they had decided to change its name from the Polish Drop-in Centre to the Polish and Eastern European Christian Family Centre.

Officials immediately protested about the decision to include the word "Christian" in its title and said the name-change could jeopardise the £7,000 it receives from the council.

Following further investigations, they also ordered Gosia Shannon, the centre's organiser, to stop singing songs about Jesus with the children and accused her of making "negative" comments about gay people.

The Labour-run council's concerns were spelt out in a letter sent to a local community leader by Debbie Biss, the head of Haringey's Noel Park Children's Centre, which funded the family centre.

She voiced unease about the decision to use the word "Christian" in the family centre's title and warned that this would affect "your ability to retain the funding we provide… and to raise funding for your activities in general."

Miss Biss went on to criticise the way children were encouraged to sing about Jesus.

"We expect all our services to be inclusive and without religious content, so I was concerned to learn that Gosia leads the singing of a song about loving Jesus in every session," she said. "I asked Gosia to leave this song out in future but she has refused to do so." Miss Biss added that: "Gosia's attitudes towards gay parents worry me," and highlighted a letter she had sent to councillors "which included negative comments about homosexuality." She warned that funding would be withdrawn from the family centre unless it agreed that all its activities "will in future be strictly of a non-religious nature."

She added that the centre must rewrite its constitution to say that it will provide activities regardless of a person's "race, gender, culture, religion, sexual orientation, disability or means".

Mrs Shannon, a 37-year-old mother of one, said she was stunned when she received the letter.

"We could not understand why our funding was going to be cut. This is part of our Roman Catholic tradition in Poland . We sing songs about Jesus and we try to raise our children in a Christian way," she said.

"I have always said that we will welcome people who are gay but we will not promote gay values in the group. But we are not negative towards gay people."

Mrs Shannon said that around nine out of 10 families who used the centre were from Poland , with the remainder being drawn from other Eastern European countries.

Haringey council later moved to defuse the row by saying it had withdrawn the threat to cut the funding.

A spokeswoman said: "The letter has been withdrawn immediately. It was not appropriate for this officer to be writing such a letter linking funding with the issues mentioned in the letter.

"We have contacted this group asking them to disregard the letter and invited them to meet a senior officer to discuss the funding."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


A couple of recent blessings:
- very warm welcome at the Brimsmore Garden centre (lovely chocolate cake in the cafe) to do a Christingle service last night. 70 or so people, most seemed to have fun making a Christingle, including one chap who put a propellor on the front of his (don't ask, but a gold star for inventiveness). There was something very right about celebrating the gift of the earth in a garden centre, and Yeovil Town Band were there to play for the carols, which was lovely.
- The lunch club at St. Peters church hall, 5 days into the alterations to make it a Youth Cafe venue - after saying grace God helped me to say that the Youth Cafe and lunch club were basically about the same thing: providing a place to meet, eat, drink and make friends with people of your own generation. And to think it was once a chicken shed....

And if you're stuck for a Christmas present, Dave Walker's cartoon church website is offering free downloads of a calendar for 2007, complete with 1 cartoon a month. This isn't on it, but is a fair represntation of my study at the moment:

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Today's final thought: was listening to Coldplay's 'Fix You' over breakfast, including the line 'when you get what you want but not what you need' - is he talking about Christmas......?

Monday, December 11, 2006

after angels

The 'Celebration of Angels' service on Sunday at the community centre seemed to go well, there was more than enough cake, a few new faces, and the angel quiz seemed to be in roughly the right place between ridiculously easy and too hard. There were about 30 angels or santas in the respective competitions, so lots of photo opportunities too.

Some reflections
- an adults only environment would have been better for actually thinking and discussing angels and the spiritual world a bit more. The service was, hopefully, a conversation starter, but there was too much going on for the conversation to get anywhere
- with so much other stuff going on at Christmas, should we just concentrate on doing good Christingles and carol services, as they'll be just as effective in sharing the message of Jesus?
- the community centre is an ideal neutral venue for families with young children, as many groups for kids meet there. However, once you have a sizeable number of children in the building, the background noise level is too high for anything reflective, or even to hear a normal amplified speaking voice. There's an element of self-defeatingness (is that a word?) - the more families with children come along, the lower the quality of the gathering. The place needs a nice carpet, new sound system and a couple of meeting rooms.
- I was torn between using the quiz answers as a framework for retelling the gospel story, or just using the questions themselves to get people thinking. The former would probably have been a bit arteficial, and maybe it would have been a relief to come to church and not get preached at. That's the trouble, I've been trained to preach, so different ways of communicating don't always come naturally.
- There's also the question of how much mileage there is in crossover events like the angel service. It's still a 'come to us' event, rather than going to people where they are. It'll be interesting to see how tomorrow evenings Christingle at the garden centre goes. That will be Christian content on neutral territory, as opposed to semi-Christian content on semi-neutral territory (a service on a Sunday morning is still Christian territory, even if you are in a public building).
- there's also the question of how far you can push people's expectations. Part of the challenge of Christmas outreach is how far you can go beyond what people expect. Carols by candelight, Christingles, carol singing etc. all have a familiarity to them. That makes them 'safe' for people to come to, and if you get too radical with them, it's self-defeating, and folk go away feeling cheated or that they've had a number done on them. Too much challenge within the familiar format is jarring, no challenge within the familiar format is a wasted opportunity.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sunday reading

A couple of links:
Dave Walker, who does the cartoons which occasionally appear on this site, has a book out, which (today at least) is in the bestseller lists for Christmas. Find 'The Dave Walker Guide to the Church' here

On todays Guardian online site, there's a story about the Conservative party and their attitude to social issues and family breakdown. What it says about Iain Duncan Smiths report into family breakdown is very interesting, at last politicians are starting to wake up to the toll that absent fathers and family breakdown is taking on the health of our communities and citizens. The report notes that Duncan Smiths report comes out just after 2 Tory MP's have split from their wives, so well done to IDS for having the courage to tell the truth, even if its an inconvenient truth.

However, this isn't new information. A study of the effect of absent fathers, 'Experiments in Living, the Fatherless Family' was published by the thinktank 'Civitas' 4 years ago. If you have the time to read it, it's sobering stuff.

Another tricky pastoral line to walk: compassion for people whose marriages and key relationships have broken down, whilst at the same time being able to say that there are better and worse ways of structuring adult relationships, and that God's way is better.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

press interest

Good to see this weeks Western Gazette, page 3 item on the youth cafe (as I type there are possibly up to 30 people in St. Peters hall, I don't really want to imagine what they're doing!!!), and a report on the Angel service a couple of pages further in. We may get a photographer to the latter on Sunday morning.

Outside my door is the sound of gaffa tape being applied as we try to design an 'Angel of the North' outfit for Christopher, age 20 months. To be strictly accurate, we would have to tape his legs and feet together and concrete him to a grassy mound, but I'm not sure he'd be too keen on that.

Have finally decided on a film clip to show during the service - partly down to what films I have available ('Dogma' is quite thought provoking but full of rude words, 'It's a Wonderful Life' not available in any local charity shop), so I've settled on 'City of Angels' (bizarrely, the official website has a picture of a beach full of angels, and then a massive picture of a bottle of Listerine. 'go figure', as someone younger than me might say). One really interesting thing is that Hollywood consistently shows angels as strong male figures, despite a cultural preference for angels as either cute children or long-haired females dressed in white. I still haven't worked out why.

Discovered a card shop in town, on the Quedam (naming no names, partly because they all look the same to me and I can't remember!) with a stand full of angel key rings. Resisted the urge to buy one. I wonder what the real angels think of our earthly efforts to represent them?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

blog counter

With nothing but hearsay to go on, I decided a couple of days ago to find something that would tell me if anyone looked at this blog. Hence the counter at the bottom of the sidebar. At the time of writing, 14 people have visited the page in the last 48 hours - until Tuesday I had no way of knowing whether the figure was 0 or 100. I honestly don't know whether what motivates me is vanity, or wanting to know if having a blog is worthwhile. I also don't know how many of yesterdays 12 visitors were due to a comment I put on another blog, and people were checking out the link.

The other way of knowing whether anyone reads this would be if people sent comments, which at the moment doesn't happen. It took me a while to have the confidence to post my thoughts on someone elses blog, so maybe that's not surprising, but I would love to know what people think. Especially if you want to disagree!

So, feedback please: should I have a counter? If you read this, how often? What's most interesting - stuff about culture, about church, about me, about what we're doing in Abbey Manor, or recipes for things containing lots of chocolate? It's time for the silent majority to speak.......

Monday, December 04, 2006

ivel fm poll

A very interesting poll here run on the Ivel FM website. Encouraging results, that 3/4 (at least, that was the proportion when I looked at the results today) don't want the religious element taken out of Christmas. Maybe they should tell the Post Office and whoever designs their stamps.....

the spiritual benefits of washing up

Our dishwasher is broken. We wonder now whether we should have left the old one in Darlington, and had a closer look at the fitted (but very unfit) dishwasher we've inherited in Yeovil.

Someone observed today that they quite liked washing up, as it gave them time to think. Loading a dishwasher doesn't give you that. Thinking back to my mum, who spent the best part of a day doing 'washing day' (loading the twin tub, putting things on the line, ironing etc.) and often the best part of another day baking and cooking, one of the things we've lost in labour saving gadgets is time to reflect, because doing things used to take time, and that was ok. Now everything has to be done as quickly as possible. We have watches, but we don't have time, as an African sage once put it.

Made me wonder when I reflect, if at all. With a commute which consists of 10 steps with a mug of coffee from the kitchen to the study, there's not much reflection time there. But do I see myself volunteering to wash up? I doubt it.............. being busy is easier than being thoughtful.

Maybe that's the wisdom of attending the daily offices (strange churchy phrase for daily
prayers at set times), since it's impossible to spend all that time saying the same words without getting bored rigid, perhaps it's time secretly used by clergy to daydream and reflect, and let their souls catch up with their bodies.