Monday, August 31, 2009

St. Aidans Day

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.

Brief biography
Nice reflection on Aidans life and example here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How long has Durham Cathedral bookshop got?

...and then there was one...

It sounds like the bookshop formerly known as SPCK Chichester is now closed, which leaves only Durham still under the control of the Brewer brothers. Durham Cathedral have already given them notice to quit - by April next year - but the Charity Commissioners may have other views.

If Chichester has been closed because the CC's deem it to be an asset of the former 'Society of St. Stephen the Great' charity, and therefore part of the tribunal settlement with former staff, then logic suggests that they do the same with Durham. Every other remaining shop in the former SPCK chain is already under Charity Commissioners control.

If you're planning to buy anything from Durham, then you might want to get a move on. The Cathedral want to re-open the shop after they've evicted the Brewers, but I can't see the Commissioners waiting until April 2010. Former staff have been promised full payment of their tribunal settlement within 3 months, so I guess the CC's will be looking to identify assets during that time frame.

And that will be that: the end of the SPCK bookshop chain in its final incarnation. Several former shops have reopened under new management, and places like Durham will probably be viable under proper management, but there's wider issues in Christian bookselling, and this isn't exactly the best time to be starting up a new shop.

Still a stack of ongoing issues:
- if SPCK passed on the shops to the Brewers under a covenant stating that they should continue to operate as Christian bookshops, does that still stand now the Charity Commissioners have taken possession?
- if so, will we have a government agency running a chain of Christian bookshops? (!!??!)
- SPCK themselves have been very quiet for much of the last 2 years, possibly for legal reasons. But having made the decision to hand the bookshops over to Mark and Phil Brewer, there has to be some kind of review of that decision, and some learning of lessons.
- there are other untraced monies, like pension contributions.
- at what point will Phil and Mark Brewer be brought to justice, rather than simply be forced by the courts to cough up what they already owe?

and so on.... please pray for all the folk caught up in this, it's deeply sad, and bookshop staff are caught in an incredibly difficult position.

Youth miniStarZ

I linked this a few days back, but it deserves a spot all to itself. It would be cruel to say who it reminds me of.

"I want to be relevant so what should I reference?"

"Do the awkward side hug"

originally found here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

If you've ever used your mobile phone whilst driving....

...then watch this. (warning, it's pretty graphic)

This is an excerpt from a 30 minute film called 'Cow', which deals both with the crash itself, and the emotional aftermath. More details here.

Texting while driving makes you more than 5 times more likely to have an accident.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mission and Fresh Expressions in the Church of England: now on pdf

A couple of months ago I did a survey of all 43 Diocesan websites in the CofE, looking for
a) evidence of engagement with Fresh Expressions, and FX work in the diocese
b) resources on mission that could be used by anyone, not just folk in that diocese.

Particularly with 'b' my hope was to save the reinvention of the wheel - there are lots of goodies out there that can simply be linked to, rather than created from scratch in 43 different locations.

Anyway, Matt Wardman has put all the research together as a pdf, with an introduction. It contains the raw survey info from each diocese, as well as summary pages on Fresh Expressions and Mission Resources. It just so happens that the mission pages on our own diocesan website are under review at the moment, so it might come in very handy!

Please feel free to download, copy, and use as you want. Many thanks to Matt for putting this together, brilliant.

Christians in a Spiritual Age - event in October.


Christians Together in a Spiritual Age

Saturday, 17 October 2009
10.00 am – 3.45 pm (Registration from 9.30 am)

Locking Castle Church, Weston Super Mare

Keynote Speakers:-
Revd. David Grosch-Miller,
Moderator, South Western Synod, United Reformed Church

Steve Hollinghurst, Church Army Evangelist

Presentations, Workshops, Displays and Resources.

For more information and booking form contact:
Robin Dixon, sctog at

some blurb:
This year our theme is Christians Together in a Spiritual Age and we are delighted to welcome as key speakers Revd David Grosch-Miller (Moderator, South Western Synod, United Reformed Church) and Steve Hollinghurst (Researcher in Evangelism for the Church Army). Steve is a leading national speaker and author on how, as Christians, we can engage with contemporary culture and new age spirituality.

The day offers lots of opportunities for networking and encouragement. We will set the scene of what is happening ecumenically across Somerset. We will hear stories from groups of local churches seeking to bring the gospel to people in their communities. In smaller workshops we will explore practical ideas for mission in our context. Coffee and lunch (both provided) will create welcome space to chat and meet old friends and new.

If you're in the SW and can get along, Steve Hollinghurst is well worth hearing, should be a good event.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Humanists call for Zoo to evolve.

The British Humanist Association is trying to get Noahs Ark, a themed zoo in Somerset, de-listed by the British Tourism Authorities. BBC story here, BHA press release here.

The BHA argues that the zoo presents anti-scientific ideas, and risks undermining the teaching of science. They state ‘We believe Noah’s Ark Farm Zoo misleads the public by not being open about its creationist agenda in its promotional activities and by advancing misunderstandings of the natural world.

The Noahs Ark website, under the heading 'Creation Research' (one of 6 principle tabs visible on all pages) says this: After looking at the current scientific explanations for origins and evolution; it is our view that the evidence available can be accurately explained using an evolution framework with an initial Creation by God. This is treated as controversial by some and welcomed by others: but our aim remains the same. We do not profess to have all the answers, but we will search for them with an open mind and publicise our theories.

That seems to me to be fairly clear about the 'agenda' of the zoo, so I'm not sure that first charge sticks. There are lots of other subsections there which explore issues of creation and evolution, without buying into either wholesale Darwinism or young earth creationism.

There are loads of museums and public attractions in which you could object to the content. Here in Somerset we have the Haynes Motor Museum, which glorifies car use (#fail - global warming) and Fleet Air Arm, which might encourage people to join the armed forces and get into fighting. Haynes also has the added issue of being incredibly dull. Wookey Hole has an area where cavemen are sited next to dinosaurs - which is historically flawed - and tells stories about witches and spells, which encourages children to believe in all sorts of nonsense. Glastonbury... well, lets not go there.

Murky territory. Maybe it's that Christians are allowed to do good things like protect animal species and encourage conservation, it's just that we're not allowed to explain what motivates us. Not happy with that at all. There's also the question of how far we trust people to think for themselves, and how far we try to 'protect' people from views that we aren't happy with. Both Richard Dawkins (see Monday's post) and the BHA seem to take the latter view, which is an interesting position for a rationalist to take.

And if you want to remove from the public eye things which are corrosive of the ability to reason and think, then start with Big Brother. Oh, sorry, that's already happened.....

Just for balance, here's a piece on the National Secular Society.

And other points of view, lest I be accused of undermining anything:
Wonderful life (supports BHA)
Fairly balanced piece at the Freethinker, which quotes an interesting letter from a local person who calls the zookeepers 'religious extremists' and 'far-Right'. Didn't realise it was run by Osama bin Laden and Margaret Thatcher, best avoid.
A site called 'Prats in Power' is very rude about the BHA, so rude I won't link them, but wonders how you become a self-appointed policeman of business.
Steve Borthwick looks at the educational value of the Ark.

Has anyone reading this actually been there?

How did they do that?

No idea what this song is about, but an incredible bit of artistry to put this video together.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You and Whose (Barmy) Army?

Think of the top users of new media, and cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew wouldn't automatically spring to mind. However, with the aid of 22000 followers on Twitter, 'Aggers' succeeded in extracting an apology from an Observer journalist who made some off-colour remarks about Agnews' interview with Lily Allen at the weekend.

Article here with more details.

After spending just over a month on Twitter, Aggers now has an army of 22,000 followers, many of whom will, as it were, go into bat for him.

Clearly, Twitter is now the shot heard around the world, whether it's Lance Armstrong commenting on his team mate or Jordan venting. And such is its power to make mass contacts, magnetise crowds and apply lobby pressure that any fuss can be over inside 24 hours without a physical blow being struck.

My own attempt at use of new media to apply pressure to the media is (so far) less succesful. A few more members for 'Lets have the 2013 Ashes on Free TV' would be lovely.

Greenbelt: possible SPCK-related meetup?

Planning to head to Greenbelt on Saturday on a day ticket, to give the kids a taste of it, and catch up with some family who'll be there. Extra bonus to discover that church leaders go for half price. Last visit was about 8-9 years ago, just after it moved to Cheltenham. Is the Tiny Tea Tent still operational? Is Griff Pilchard still around? Is anyone else going?

If you've been following the SPCK saga and fancy a get together at GB to toast the health of Mark Brewer (or maybe someone else), then drop a comment or a tweet (@davidmkeen), and we might try to 'organise' something for the Saturday. It would be great to meet some of the folks I've got to know online over the last 12 months. 3pm on Saturday in the beer tent? Not that I have any idea where it is, or whether the beer's any good........

For other onliners, there's going to be a 'tweet-up' on Saturday morning in the Arena (10.30am). It will be really interesting to see what kind of social interaction happens between people who've only previously heard of each other on Twitter. Will they only communicate in short sentences? Or just stand around texting each other?


A few things worth a look elsewhere

Coping with Depression in the Church, good series at Dream Awakener.

Unfinished Christian on the BBC sports reporter who keeps Sunday special.

The Shiny Headed Prophet is on the receiving end of some encouraging swearing at his local pub.
The BBC reports that multitaskers are bad at multitasking. So stop writing that tweet, put the phone down and read this properly.

Shallowfrozenwater has uncovered a cracking spoof video on Youth Ministers. If you're advertising a youth minister post, just send this out instead of a job description. Brilliant.

Church Mouse has the complete and definitive (for 24hours at least) list of twittering clergy in the CofE.

Gary Alderson investigates what 'SSM' might stand for, and wonders why we don't sing about finding God in our computer.

Holy heteroclite summarises a Barna survey on US pastors, and some pretty horrific stats on burnout, dropout and fallout. Even if you're not into stats, it's worth visiting the blog for the Keanu Reeves kung fu origami Matrix vid in the top corner.

Heavens Highway has some thoughts on Lockerbie, whilst Nick Baines wonders aloud whether the US has the right to protest about injustice, given its own track record.

Great cellphone prayer from naked pastor.

As the SPCK/SSG blog registers its 150,000th hit, Matt Wardman writes on the Revenge of Lilliput, and what lessons can be learnt from the online campaign in support of former SPCK staff and shops.

Richard Frank has a great idea for how to describe your church to outsiders.

And if you're a fan of link roundups, this is a good list at Clayboy.

By the way, you may have noticed a couple of tweaks in the sidebar here:
- subscription button
- search facility, so that you can search the archive
- 'followers' section: everyone else seems to have one, so please sign up to make me feel loved.

At some stage I might try to add a fuller list of links, as there are lots of sites - both blogs and resource sites, that I used to link to before I changed Blogger template and lost them all.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flintoff: I'd rather be Super Dad than Super Fred

Nice interview with Andrew Flintoff over at Cricinfo, talking about how he views his retirement from Test cricket. What comes over is that he sees it as a positive step - a deliberate choice to focus more on his family - rather than a step backwards.

Nevertheless, there was a flip side to Flintoff's emotion, and that came when the players' families - including his wife, Rachael, and their three children, Holly, Corey and Rocky - joined in the celebrations. "I was looking at the lads and how happy they were which was one thing, but then I looked at my wife and kids and I thought 'I've made the right decision here'.

"I'm probably not going to get 25,000 people in my house chanting my name," he joked. "Or people shouting 'Super Fred' when I am doing the school run. However, you know, for me, spending time with my family and having the opportunity to do that is far more important and something I'm really looking forward to doing."

Holly, the eldest, turns five in September, and Flintoff admitted that the days of long overseas tours was something he was happy to put behind him. "It is quite a nice time for me to finish," he said. "The kids are coming to an age where they need their Dad around, and I am going to be there for them. Bittersweet as it is, having to finish Test cricket through injury, the one thing I am excited about is being at home. That is far more important than pinging a few down in a Test match."

Good man.

The Good FaceBook

A Facebook page devoted to the Bible now has approaching 250,000 fans (correction - over 260,000). It was set up a few months ago by Mark Brown, founder of the Anglican Cathedral of Second Life, and he commented earlier this month:

The number of fans has just passed 100,000 and it is growing at more than 7,000 a day. And not only that but people comment on the Scripture, ask questions, answer questions, seek prayer, pray for each other and share the most amazing testimonies. In the past week nearly 8,000 people have interacted with the page.

If you sign up as a 'fan' you get a Bible text sent to you each day - not quite sure how these are selected, but as long as it's not a regular excerpt from Numbers that's probably ok. There's quite a few discussions going on, topics ranging from divorce to "can't I just read my bible and pray at home?"

1. The web is a great democratiser - anyone could have set this page up, it just happens to have been set up by someone who's fairly well connected and in a significant position (he's CEO of the Bible Society in New Zealand). However most of us look for some kind of filter on the sites we join or have a look at, either through friends, people who's opinions we respect, or folk people with some kind of 'status'. The more stuff is out there, the more filtering we'll need, so I wonder whether the openness of new media is going to last, or whether we'll come to rely more and more on brokers and filters to help us navigate.

2. Along with the greater openness comes a greater risk. There are probably people among those 250,00 who have some serious questions about the Bible, and there are others who think that the way you answer a question is by quoting a Bible verse, preferably in capital letters. That doesn't usually help.

3. However, every community is a risk. In an unrelated blog post, Brown discusses the 'Age of ME', and asks how we build community when personal preference is king? Creating community brings us more into contact with others, and that will increase the chance of enriching relationships, as well as the chance of irritating or annoying ones. The trouble is that because we engage more and more by opting in, rather than belonging, we've less experience and skills in dealing long-term with irritating and annoying people, and so we find them even more irritating and annoying than we would otherwise.

My worry for the Bible on Facebook is that people who like this kind of thing will find that this is the kind of thing they like, and that people who don't, won't. That's fine if it's there just to bless Christians. But if part of the aim is to help people outside the Christian faith to, discover, discuss, and engage with the Bible, then it'll be interesting to see how well that works.

if you want to join another Facebook site devoted to a good cause, can I commend 'Lets Have the 2013 Ashes on free TV'. or sign the petition.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dawkins Calls for the Priest

The Times is serialising some extracts from Richard Dawkins new book 'the Greatest Show on Earth', starting today. In it, Dawkins claims science teachers face a 'dire' plight, with a rising number of children, and parents, refusing to accept evolution, and persecuting science teachers who expound it. He compares this with historians trying to teach 20th century history to Holocaust deniers - which makes a good headline, but I'm pretty uncomfortable with anyone who uses the Holocaust to make a point in an argument.

The main body of the piece is a plea to church leaders (not quite sure why it's just church leaders, I didn't realise all Muslims were 100% behind Darwin on this one) who have accepted evolutionary theory and integrated it into their faith. Here's a bit of it:

To return to the enlightened bishops and theologians, it would be nice if they’d put a bit more effort into combating the anti-scientific nonsense that they deplore. All too many preachers, while agreeing that evolution is true and Adam and Eve never existed, will then blithely go into the pulpit and make some moral or theological point about Adam and Eve in their sermons without once mentioning that, of course, Adam and Eve never actually existed!

If challenged, they will protest that they intended a purely “symbolic” meaning, perhaps something to do with “original sin”, or the virtues of innocence. They may add witheringly that, obviously, nobody would be so foolish as to take their words literally. But do their congregations know that? How is the person in the pew, or on the prayer-mat, supposed to know which bits of scripture to take literally, which symbolically? Is it really so easy for an uneducated churchgoer to guess? In all too many cases the answer is clearly no, and anybody could be forgiven for feeling confused.

Think about it, Bishop. Be careful, Vicar. You are playing with dynamite, fooling around with a misunderstanding that’s waiting to happen — one might even say almost bound to happen if not forestalled. Shouldn’t you take greater care, when speaking in public, to let your yea be yea and your nay be nay? Lest ye fall into condemnation, shouldn’t you be going out of your way to counter that already extremely widespread popular misunderstanding and lend active and enthusiastic support to scientists and science teachers? The history-deniers themselves are among those who I am trying to reach. But, perhaps more importantly, I aspire to arm those who are not history-deniers but know some — perhaps members of their own family or church — and find themselves inadequately prepared to argue the case.

1. It's quite possible to make moral or theological points about things without having to say whether they really happened or not - many great novels and works of literature do this. You wouldn't come on stage at the end of Les Miserables and say 'now don't forget everyone, this is all fiction, just a story made up by Dumas, and none of it really happened.'

2. I love the line about 'uneducated' churchgoers. That's a fine commentary on our schools system, unless Dawkins is proposing that the church play a greater role in education? Thought not.

3. I'm not sure it's the place of church leaders to go 'out of your way' to argue for evolution over against creationism. For one thing, there are a lot of other things going on in the real world, and this comes some way down the list of concerns. Secondly, we're not preaching on Genesis 1-3 every other month. I'll happily say from the pulpit (though I'd rather be at ground level) that Genesis is more of a theological document than a historical one, but it's not as though I'll get the chance to go into all of that in fine detail. People can think for themselves.

4. I wonder if that second paragraph has ever happened in reality, or whether it's a figment of Dawkins imagination. If his argument is based on facts, we should know. If it's based on fictions, then we should know. We should be told whether this blithe and withering clergyman ever existed, even as he is used to make a moral point.

5. It's quite amusing, that having systematiclly abused and ridiculed religious people for years, Dawkins is now trying to co-opt us. I'm not sure how he can argue that a) evolution disproves the existence of God and b) people who believe in God should be defending evolution. Huh? That's like asking Flintoff to bowl for the Aussies.

Further reading
Is Richard Dawkins a stage magician? (Uncommon Descent)
'The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist' (Thinking matters)

How to Ensure the Death of Cricket

Update: 'Lets have the 2013 Ashes on Free TV' Facebook group just launched.

Make sure people have to pay to watch it. The following from the Guardian:

The climax of England's 2-1 series win over Australia at the Oval in south London was watched by 1.92 million viewers on Sky Sports 1, a 14% share of the multichannel audience, between 5.45pm and 6pm.

It was also a good day for Channel Five, whose highlights show, Cricket on Five, was watched by a record 2 million viewers, 10% of the audience, between 7.15pm and 8pm, the channel's highest-rating show of the night.

At its peak, Sky Sports 1's live Ashes coverage had more viewers than Gardeners' World on BBC2, which had 1.1 million viewers between 5.45pm and 6pm, and was neck and neck with a repeat of Agatha Christie's Poirot on ITV1, which had 1.9 million viewers. But it could not better the 2.3 million viewers watching Songs of Praise on BBC1.

However, Sky's audience was inevitably a fraction of the peak of 7.4 million viewers who saw England's last Ashes triumph in 2005, which was available free-to-air on Channel 4.
On the final afternoon of the 2005 Ashes, an average of 4.7 million viewers were watching Channel 4's live coverage between 1.15pm and 7pm.

More than Gardeners World eh? Those boys at Sky must be really cock-a-hoop with that.

So the ECB have managed to cut the number of people following cricket live on TV by over 70% following Englands last Ashes triumph in 2005. Well done. Can't have the plebs enjoying it now can we? Next time, please can we have our cricket back?

At least that's the end of any debate about the future of Songs of Praise. If it can pull a bigger audience than a national sporting triumph on a sunny afternoon in August, then there's clearly nothing much wrong there.

Any sarcasm detected in this article is deliberate.

PS: Phil Ritchie has pointed out on Twitter that the 2005 Ashes was won on a weekday, so a weekend audience would have been much higher than the 7.4m watching then.

Wikio top Religion blogs in July

Better late than never - pesky things holidays - here are the blogs within the latest Wikio top 200 which have a strong leaning towards religion/faith themes:

15 Archbishop Cranmer who breaks into the top 20 for the first time. There are now 2 martyrs in the top 15, if you count Guido Fawkes.
100 Holy Smoke
107 The hermeneutic of continuity appears from absolutely nowhere, prolific blogging by a Catholic priest near Sidcup.
113 Heresy Corner
120 Anglican Mainstream shoots up the list, even though it's not a blog. However if you like reading articles about Anglicans talking about sex, it's the place to be (see also Thinking Anglicans, Virtue Online, below)
129 Bartholemews Notes on Religion
133 Thinking Anglicans chasing Anglican Mainstream but not quite catching it. But at least it's a blog.
138 What Does the Prayer Really Say? another Catholic blog appearing from nowhere, quite readable too.
176 Virtue Online, which confuses me as I thought this listing was for UK blogs only, but there you go.
190 The Ugley Vicar congrats to John Richardson for entering the top 200.
224 this one. Not quite sure how I merit a label 'Actors and Actresses'...
229 Of course I could be wrong
240 Bishop Alan (big drop - how did that happen?)

A few things to note:
- mediawatchwatch has dropped out of the top 200, as has the SPCK blog, though I predict the latter will be back!
- there's a lot of movement, with the Catholic blogs appearing from nowhere, and a big jump in some of the main blogs dealing with the rolling blogosphere arguments within the Anglican Communion. There's a danger that the main blog presence by the Church of England will become Anglican Mainstream and Thinking Anglicans, which I don't think would be healthy at all.
- in case there were any doubts about the quality of this list, I merely note that Cupcake Craft Challenges is at no 154. Quite a few craft sites in there, in fact.

not sure whether to include the excellent normblog (23 in the list), have a look and see what you think.

Use the wikio rankings tab to see lists from previous months.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

England 2 Australia 1

Fantastic result , kept switching off the radio as all the wickets seemed to be falling when I wasn't listening, the first one I caught live was Siddle, the 8th wicket to fall.

Twitter seems to be in meltdown, favourite one so far:
@dotterel: Rolf Harris, Edna Everidge, Barry Humphries, Clive James. Are you listening Germaine Greer? Your boys took a hell of a beating.

The stats themselves seem to show that Australia were the better team - 8 centuries to Englands 2, the 3 top wicket-takers in the series, better averages all round. But England seem to have managed to rise to it when it mattered - the 10th wicket stand at Cardiff, and a couple of game-changing bowling spells which Australia weren't able to replicate.

The only shame is that we couldn't follow it live on telly. Are you listening Gordon Brown? Can the next Ashes be one of the 'crown jewels' events which are protected as free on mainstream channels, rather than stuff we have to pay for.

Strauss man of the series, Broad man of the match, Michael Clarke the Aussie man of the series, no surprises.

Splendid. Beer time.

Best Year Ever

Alongside Gordon Browns 'Britain is still a Christian country' interview, another intriguing story I missed whilst on the beach was a poll hosted by the Economist on the most significant year in human history.

A couple of things struck me as odd:

- you can still vote (I just did), even though the results have been declared. I thought it was only the Soviets who did this.

- there's a certain irony in the invention of the printing press being declared the winner by a poll conducted online. The Oedipal son of the printed media elects old dad King even as he is being shoved off his throne.

The birth of Jesus is currently second to Guttenbergs invention, with about 25% of all votes. Andrew Marr's article, which kicked the whole thing off, is here, and Adrian Wooldridge makes the case for the year of Jesus birth.

ht Cranmer.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Can England Do It?

Amazing day of cricket yesterday, but no chicken counting just yet. Meanwhile, a quick update on my pre-series predictions, which are holding up rather well:

1. Series:
my first stab at predicting failed to factor in a drawn Cardiff test, the revised one was a 2-1 victory to whoever won at Lords. Which was England.
1/1 (hopefully)

2. Top run scorer:
England - Cook. Whoops. Strauss has run away with this, but everyone else in the top 5 has been a bit of a letdown. No. 6 Matt Prior is 2nd to Strauss, both on runs scored and batting average. Cook's place may now look shaky - time to give Denly a go?

Australia - Michael Clarke. Barring a traditional Oval match-saving 158 from another Aussie, Clarke is the top scorer by a mile. The new Ponting.

3. Top wicket taker:
England: Jimmy Anderson - this was looking fine until 2 innings ago, since when Broad has taken 11 scalps and suddenly it's young Stuart ahead of Anderson 17-12.

Australia: Mitchell Johnson, who somehow, despite bowling like Boycotts grandmother for most of the series, is on 20 wickets, level with Siddle and 1 behind Hilfenhaus. Could go to any of them. (update: it's Hilfenhaus by 2 wickets, 22 to 20, despite a late surge by Marcus North)

A note in passing: Broad is the only England bowler averaging under 40 for the series, whilst if you include Hauritz, the Aussies have 4 bowlers averaging under 33.

4. Crocks: Lee and Flintoff, which was 2/2 almost a month ago.

The temptation to take my Inbox of 101 emails (that's after deleting about 500 from Freecycle) down to the pub is almost overwhelming.

It's also hard not to think about the future, with Flintoff's farewell, and to wonder whether a bad series for Cook & Collingwood is just the fatigue of being ever-present, or the sign of something worse. Strauss's form has improved dramatically after he was dropped in early '08, and maybe every England player needs a 2-3 month sabbatical on rotation to keep them fresh and to stop them losing either form or fitness.

If England do win, it will be pretty amazing. Not least because, if you were picking your 11 of the series, only 3 England players (Strauss, Prior and Broad) would be in it. The Aussies have, overall, outbatted and outbowled England, but that's not reflected in the results. Instead the series has turned on particular sessions: the Cardiff rearguard, Anderson's Lords burst, Englands collapse at Headingley, and yesterday afternoon.

But let's see what happens today.....

Friday, August 21, 2009

the USDAW settlement on SPCK - blog roundup

I should go away more often. It's great that my first post back from holiday should be about a significant step forward in the grim soap opera that has been the moral and financial decimation of the former SPCK bookshops by their new Texan owners. Since the Charity Commissioners stepped in and took over the Society of St. Stephen the Great affairs, there at last appears to be progress.

The full USDAW statement, issued on Wednesday, is here, with a timeline of events since the Brewers took over. It makes it clear that the Brewers broke the law here in the UK. That makes 2 countries where 'lawyer' Mark Brewer has fallen foul of the legal system. These A level qualifications ain't what they used to be.

It's worth noting that the full settlement will come through depending on 'sale of assets' belonging to the charity. If you happen to be near Chichester or Durham bookshop and have a decent camera, kindly pop in and take a photo of each of the bookshelf units, so that we can be clear what stock is currently there.

The story is picked up by the Employment Intelligence blog, Matt Wardman has a detailed piece, and Lanky Anglican and Clayboy also take note of yesterdays BBC coverage. It's also in the Lincolnshire Echo.

Via the many comments at Phil Grooms blog, long-time campaigner and former SPCK employee Phelim Macintyre notes the Church Times report, complete with amusing photo/caption. 'It is unclear who is responsible' - I can think of several dozen people with a motive..... Don't know if it's just me, or is the CT report a bit bolder in its highlighting of Brewer misdemeanours than a few months ago?

Asingleblog and SPCKwatch also continue to focus on this story. There's still plenty to do, including recovering those assets, finding lost pension payments, sorting out unpaid creditors, and making sure that Phil Brewers personal filing for bankruptcy (if that's what it is) doesn't enable him to evade his obligations. We're not there yet, but hopefully the Charity Commissioners now have the bit between their teeth, and can get to grips with the rest of this mess.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Settlement for former SPCK workers, BBC Coverage, and another Brewer 'bankruptcy'

The BBC is reporting the settlement just agreed with former SPCK bookshops workers.

After the Charity Comissioners took over the franchise from the Society of St. Stephen the Great, an out of court settlement for 32 former workers has been quickly agreed through USDAW, good news.

more details on the SPCK/SSG blog, where it also emerges that Phil Brewer, one of the infamous Brewer brothers, is filing for bankruptcy. Haven't we seen this tactic before, as a Brewer stock in trade for evading financial obligations?

Have you been good?

Been away for a couple of weeks hols, so the last few posts have been scheduled from before we went away (trick from Steve Tilley). I took the risk of leaving the comments unmoderated, since I've not had many nutters recently. Once I'm over the jet lag, we'll see whether that was a wise move.....

what did I miss?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blast from the past: Evaluating Church

Found the following on 'Marc's Messages', a blog from a Dutch guy involved in the emerging church movement. Copying other people's stuff is so much easier than writing my own.....

Evaluating church in 2006
"One New Year's Eve I asked my pastor a very straight forward question: 'How many adults came to faith in Christ at our church this year?' The pastor, a very diplomatic man, said, 'I am not sure. I'll have to get back to you on that.' But he and I knew the answer. It was zero. I added it up. That year our church conducted 104 regularly scheduled worship services, 7 special services, some 250 adult classes, 600 committee meetings and 1,000 small-group meetings and ran through a $750,000 budget to produce exactly zero new adult followers of Jesus Christ. We gathered. We worshiped. We loved each other. But we produced no crop. Our church was a contraption worthy of Rube Goldberg: lots of sound, motion, fury to produce a tiny amount of fruit."

Steve Hill quotes 'Why Men Hate Going to Church' by David Murrow, page 164, and adds his 2 cents: "What is interesting is the demand for results when a church gives several hundred dollars to a mission project in the second or third worlds. The unspoken reality is no results, no more money (and that is perhaps as it should be!). Yet that same group will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on themselves without any results and think nothing of it!"

I have no idea who Rube Goldberg is, but that money figure bothers me.

So why don't we evaluate what we do at church? Is it because we suspect we already know the answer, so the idea of evaluation frightens us because we don't like coming to terms with bad news? I'm not sure we have a culture in the church that allows us to face failure with courage and honesty. We're good at reporting good news, but when something fails or doesn't come up to scratch we tend to get a bit embarrassed and not mention it. The fete raised £1000? - hurrah! The fete raised £36.14? - relegated to 1 line on the notice sheet.

On another level, I have lost count of the number of Christian leaders I've heard saying that this generation/year/movement/work of the Spirit was going to be the decisive event in Christendom. Then when it wasn't, nobody puts their hand up. Charismatics are the worst at this, because we're good at confusing enthusiastic optimism with the gift of prophecy.

As a church leader, when did I last apologise to the church for a poor bit of leadership? As a preacher, when did I last invite feedback on a sermon which was bad, rather than the ones I thought went well (so I go fishing for compliments)? I'd love to encourage a culture of experimentation within the church, and it's something I've spoken and (I think) blogged about, but such a culture needs people who can make failure 'safe', who can show that it's ok to try and fail.

Otherwise we will cover our failure with 600 committee meetings, a full programme, lots of optimistic noises and lots of signs to the outside world that we really are doing rather well, just to convince ourselves that all this effort is worthwhile.

How many adults came to faith in Christ at your church last year? Not being afraid of the answer may be the first step to having a different answer come January 2008.

originally posted January 2007.

Monday, August 17, 2009

7 whole ways not 1 in 7

Steve Taylor writes about a visit to an organic community, and compares it to our normal models of church. Fascinating:

Here is what Heronswood offered:

1. A space: a historic house and established gardens, around which one could wander, free of charge, absorbing the peace, or pay a small entry fee to wander another part of the garden.

2. A cafe: selling a range of food, a real try before you buy experience of new vegetables and imaginative possibilities.

3. A demonstration garden: ln which new vegetable varieties were grown, stretching the imagination, offering possibilities. Tied to this was a demonstration plot showing “the size of garden needed to feed 3 people for a year.” It was quite stunning to realise how little a space of land was required to grow vegetables.

4. Which was tied to “product” in the form of plants, seeds and books. You could buy those new possibilites you see in the garden. You could purchase the seed pack required to start your own garden. Lots of resources were targeted at beginners, both books and hands on starter kits.

5. Regular workshops were offered, in how to plant, compost, harvest. A chance for relationships, a chance for those who might not get books, but might learn by hands on practice.

6. A festival, twice a year, offered a chance to celebration.

7. A committed core, the diggers club (what a great name) in the form of a membership group.

What would it mean to stimulate our thinking by placing ecclesial life and mission alongside this type of multi-faceted place, the hands on experimentation, the one-off workshops, the festivals, the demonstration plots, offering a wide variety of ways to access?

Most churches offer a church service, which is essentially targeted at (7) the committed core, the members, those inside the community. If they get missional, they run (2) a cafe or a variety of community facing programmes. But it pales into insignificance alongside workshops, festivals, product, demonstrations, space and core.

Read it all here. Ht Prodigal Kiwi(s) (again)

To be fair a lot of older churches offer '1', though for only a limited amount of time as the building is normally locked.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blast from the past: 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 (surely?)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.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blast from the Past: The Shaping of Things to Come

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 to 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.

originally posted November '06

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Blast from the past: 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?

originally posted November '06

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blast from the Past: Knowing When to Stop

For August I'm reposting a few of the earliest items on this blog, from the days when nobody read it (no change there then - ed), this one's from December '06

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, August 11, 2009

Name Change?

Thinking about a change of name for the blog come September. Ideas considered so far:

Fool for the Fire
Between Yeovil and the C of E
Idiot in the Global Village
More to Life than Blogging
Character Limit
Flintoff's Knee (sore, overworked, but vital)
The Church Cat
40th Article
By All Means
Subliminal Message
Balaams Elbow
Organ Failure

do shout if any of these are taken....thought not.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Should Christians Boycott Tesco?

Stumbled across these comments by Sam Norton, reviewing the book 'Tescopoly' by Andrew Simms

"..(it's) a very thorough overview of the way in which Tesco functions
as a monopolist: one who has joined all the fields together until it is left
alone in the land. In many ways Tesco is simply a highly efficient corporation,
a (rare) example of world-class management in a British company. Yet it is
precisely the fact that it is so efficient, so effective in accomplishing its
aims, that it has had such dispiriting and impoverishing effects on our

Simms details the ways in which, through the use and abuse of its dominant
market position, Tesco actively harms those who supply it with goods, those who
work within its walls, and the communities within which it finds itself

For example, Tesco consistently pays its suppliers less than the industry
average, it is consistently late in paying invoices presented to it, especially
by the smallest suppliers, and, through the exercise of essentially bullying
tactics, it is able to 'borrow' more than £2bn a year from its suppliers for

Internationally it suppresses wages in the third world and strips
communities of their dignity (I was astonished to read that in a farm in
Zimbabwe children are taught to sing "Tesco is our dear friend" in order to
impress the visiting potentates.)

My own concern is primarily with the impact on local communities in
England, and here Simms marshalls fascinating evidence. For every £1 spent in a
supermarket more than 90p leaves a local community; whereas the impact of a
'local box scheme' (ie locally produced and delivered vegetables) is quite the
reverse - for every £1 spent, £2.50 is generated in local wealth. In terms of
jobs, supermarkets undermine a community further: it takes £95,000 worth of
sales in a supermarket to sustain a single job, the figure for smaller stores is

Beyond this, the supermarkets, especially Tesco, support the use of casual
and unlicensed labour leading to what is effectively a modern form of serfdom.
Put simply the arrival of a supermarket chain in a town sucks money and
livelihoods away from the local area in order to agglomerate capital for
shareholders. Supermarkets impoverish communities in terms of income, social
life and common civility."

We have a local 'Tesco express', where at the moment we do a lot of our shopping, though we use a box system for veg, and a local dairy. Sam concludes that 'it is the duty of all Christians to boycott Tesco', though you'll need to read his whole piece to see how he reaches that conclusion.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Possibly one of the best tweeters around, poet/preacher/artist Gerard Kelly's Twitturgies is worth following, if you're on Twitter. They also feed onto his blog. Here's a few examples:

God be in my fingers, hovering over keys. God be in each call and conversation. God be in reach even when the network isn't.

To fear God is wisdom. To be afraid of God is a prison. Trade my terror for tenderness, God, and my cowering for confidence

Give me a poet's heart, God, and an architect's imagination. Let my love for the has-been fuel my passion for the yet-to-come

We are fragments of the mirror of God; 6 billion shards of his shatterred image. Glue us together God. Make us a mirror ball

Reading those, it strikes me that Psalm 119 reads a bit like a twitter feed with a #bible hashtag.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Re:Source meeting in Taunton

Info via our Diocesan newsletter:

ReSource (formerly Anglican Renewal Ministries) are about to start a series of regional meetings, with evenings for supporters which will be repeated on an annual basis. The SW meeting is at St James Church Taunton on the evening of Wednesday 26 August - refreshments from 7.00 - start at 7.30 and finish at 9.30.

For more information call Christine Treanor 01749 672860

Here's the full list of regional days, from their website
- 26th August for the South West region in Taunton, Somerset.
- 30th September for the South, in Reading, Berks.
- 18th November for the South East in Chelmsford, Essex.
- 9th December for the southern part of the North, in Halifax, Yorks.
- 6th January 2010 for the Midlands in Loughborough, Leics.
- 21st April 2010 for the northern part of the North, in Penrith, Cumbria.

I'd just like to note that the word for the 'southern part of the North' is Yorkshire, but please don't describe Yorkshire folk as 'southern', it's just not done....

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Slow Motion/Comments Policy

Blogging will be slowing down a bit here for the rest of the month, to make a bit more time for lying down/watching cricket/reminding myself what the family looks like, and important stuff like that.

And if it all makes this less likely to happen

then so much the better.

In the meantime, comments are going on moderation. This means 2 things

a) I can deal with them at my leisure, rather than responding on a daily basis

b) I can filter out some of the unwanted stuff. The occasional commenter seems to visit here intent on picking an argument. If anyone wants to do that, please do it on your own blog and stop fishing here. I'm aware of other blogs which ban particular commenters, and I don't really want to do that, but I will if I have to.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Event or Community?

from ASBO Jesus.

Is church an event or a community?

Our family is a community. Our life is marked by events - big ones (birthday parties, special outings) and small ones (mealtimes, story time), but the events express the life of the community. I find it strange that the church, which is primarily a community of disciples entrusted with God's mission, has come to be defined by events in buildings. Even worse, these events are enshrined in the law of the land (e.g. the 1547 Sacraments Act, which surfaced recently in debates over communion and swine flu).

The event of public corporate worship has come to define the life of the church, and we then struggle to build a sense of community and common mission around the people who are drawn to the event. We turn to small groups to create a sense of community and fellowship among those who attend the event, but struggle to get people to join. Or they join, but the groups don't have a natural dynamic and impetus for growth or discipleship.

Are we starting in the wrong place?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Skateboarding for Jesus

Interesting vid on the BBC site about 'skate camps' in the US, which sound like traditional summer youth camps, but with wheels and a skate park. Love the final comment, where one of the kids blurs the boundaries between 'worshipping God and having fun', which is just as it should be.

Ashes predictions revisited: 2

Around this time yesterday, I had the mad thought of whizzing up to Birmingham for the day. So glad I didn't act on it!!!

my latest prophecy was 2-1 to whoever wins Lords. That would be England then. We need less rain and spicier pitches for the last 2 tests, or it could even be 1-0.

Addition of Lee and/or Clark will make Australian bowling more potent, but Harmy has to come in for Broad - you don't pick a fast bowler for his batting, and Strauss has clearly lost confidence in Broad. He'll be back, but needs something extra to make him a threat at this level. But, Harmison's feet are currently 'a bit of a mess', covered in blisters and pretty painful.

If Flintoff has to drop out, then it gets tricky: it's a long tail starting with Swann at 7, but I'd go with Sidebottom to replace Freddie.

top run scorer: Predicted - Cook & Michael Clarke
Cook now a long way behind Strauss, who is running away with it on the England side. Time for a big hundred lad. Clarke is the top Aussie batsman so far, shaping up well to be the next Ponting.

top wicket taker: Predicted - Anderson & Johnson
Not bad: Anderson is on top for Ingerlund with 12 wickets, and if Johnson can avoid getting dropped then he's still in with a shout, all 4 Aussie bowlers are in the 10-12 wickets range. That's until Siddle gets dropped for Stuart Clark and he rips through England in the remaining 2 tests. All depends on whether the Aussies want to bring both Clark and Lee in, or just 1 of them.

Crocks: Predicted - Lee or Stuart Clarke/Flintoff.
Lee may be back for Headlingly, and Freddie literally on his knees today after going over on his ankle. Great batting from the big man yesterday. Hadn't predicted the loss of Brad Haddin, or KP, and to be honest England didn't miss him a great deal, though a 2nd spinning option might have been handy. The rest will do him good.

Disorganised religion

"Religion and the contemporary understanding of the word 'organised' have nothing in common whatsoever. The media have wised up to the fact that whatever a bishop says, there's more than likely going to be another bishop that disagrees. There is no party line.

While this is incredibly liberating on an individual basis, it is suicide in a media culture that thrives on dissent, disagreement and sensation. We are never going to be able to manage it (by which I think he means 'manage the media'); that would actually be a defeat of what we say we believe in.

We have to try to explain why we are prone to disagreeing with each other, why we are subject to the same ridiculous weaknesses as everybody else, why God has chosen in his wisdom to make fools out of us and flood every single newspaper, radio and television station with stories about our own essential weakness."

from Peter Owen Jones Small Boat Big Sea. Written 9 years ago, I was going to say 'and still relevant', but that's pretty revealing in itself. In what other period of history (major wars and coups excepted) would something written 9 years before not be relevant?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Facebook and the Bishop: never mind the content, feel the headlines.

Here's a puzzle. How does this:

"I think there's a worry that an excessive use or an almost exclusive use of text and emails means that as a society we're losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community.

We're losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person's mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point.

Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.

Facebook and MySpace might contribute towards communities, but I'm wary about it. It's not rounded communication so it won't build a rounded community...If we mean by community a genuine growing together and a mutual sharing in an interest that is of some significance then it needs more than Facebook." (Archbishop Vincent Nichols)

result in a headline like "Archbishop slams online friendships"? That's such a pathetic and lazy piece of journalism. Who needs a thoughtful debate about the interaction between real and virtual community when you've got such nice big fat pigeonholes to put people in?

The Times is even worse than Yahoo "Facebook drives teens to suicide, says Vincent Nichols". No it flipping well doesn't. Read what he says!!! Sure the headline may get more people reading the article, but it also makes them less likely to actually listen to Nichols actual words. However, just for balance, Ruth Gledhills blog is worth reading on this, where she makes the valid point that bullying on Facebook tends to be an extension of bullying in 'real life', so social networking sites are just one of many mediums which can be used for good or ill.

On a personal note, with a few exceptions all of my Facebook 'friends' are people I've met face to face and would consider to be friends anyway. I'm happier with the Twitter idea of 'followers' - the use of 'friend' to describe the relationship you have with someone through Facebook devalues friendship. As a way of keeping in touch with people who are already friends, social networking sites can be very helpful. But as Nichols says, if they become a substitute for face to face relationships (rather than an extension of them), then that's not good.

Update: excellent piece from Bishop Alan, who, as always, puts it much better than me.

David and Goliath, to Bohemian Rhapsody

Great fun. Just the right line between naff and clever. It's apparently called 'Bethlehemian Rhapsody' by the Apologetix, the full lyrics are on their site.

Ht Zoomtard, who has some interesting things to say about contemporary Christian music. The song is just the first 6 mins of the vid, but the out-takes and credits are pretty funny too.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I looked over Jordan....

This is possibly the moment yesterday when Katie Price remembered where she was.

Judging by the other photos of the event, the centre of Yeovil was pretty busy for the royal visit. Still, there might just have been room to park your bike.

We happened to be in town yesterday, but not for the book signing, and noticed a headline in OK magazine for August (like you do) which said 'Katie Price explodes'. It wouldn't come as a shock.

Could your church say this?

Found this inspiring statement of dedication the other day, following a recent conference of church leaders from a certain denomination. I've changed the names to make it harder to guess which church it's from. Could it be yours?

WE have gathered in the sacred name of Jesus from every corner of the world. In a spirit of humility we have given time to waiting upon God for his guidance for our own individual and personal lives and also for our sacred responsibilities as Church leaders under God.

We have spent time seeking the will of God in plenary sessions together, in small groups focused upon the Scriptures, and in solitary prayer and meditation. Our subject matter has included the following large themes and topical issues for the whole Church:

– a reaffirmation of the role of the Church, of all members, and not least of Church leaders, in the building of God’s Kingdom here on earth;

– the building up of God’s Kingdom through an ever-deepening commitment to Christ and personal confidence in the power of the gospel;

– working for Kingdom growth through the Church’s numerical growth and through the establishing of Church work and witness in new lands;

– the Church’s God-given role in working for social relief, social justice and human rights on every continent;

– the challenges of financing the Church’s global mission at a time of global recession;

– the challenge of working in Muslim cultures today;

– understanding current societal trends in relation to postmodernism, issues of gender, the younger generation, and our relations with other Christian bodies;

– the ever-urgent need to win and disciple children and whole families for Christ;

– the constant need to prepare the future leaders of the Church on every continent.

Most importantly of all, we have prayed together with earnest and seeking hearts, asking God to reveal to us with new clarity all he is willing to accomplish through us despite our failings, both personal and organisational. We have pleaded for a renewed spirit of humility, surrender and submission to the divine will for us and for the Church.

We have pondered again before the Lord, who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), a vision of the worldwide Church kneeling in repentance, prayer and rededication at the Mercy Seat. We have spoken together of all that this might mean for the Church, seeking new grace, new spiritual power, new divine prompting, and asking for and receiving afresh God’s mercy.

As we keep this vision before us, we give heartfelt thanks to God for his blessing upon his Church. We thank and honour him for souls redeemed, lives transformed, and a growing Church offering selfless service across the world. We praise God for the growing number of countries into which he is leading us. We pray for heavenly resources of wisdom and ability in order to meet the many new challenges and opportunities he is giving. We thank him for his constant provision and sustaining grace.

Also we affirm our conviction that, to be truly useful to God, the Church needs to be pure and free from sin, and that senior leaders must, by grace, be effective role models in this. We feel the urging of the Holy Spirit to examine our own hearts afresh to see if there be any wicked way within us. We want to yield again to the demands of divine love, to return to first things, to cast aside distractions unpleasing to God, and to be in a relation of entire obedience to the Father. We acknowledge our constant need of grace.

We renew our sacred vows and covenants as both members and leaders of the Church, thanking God from our hearts for the privilege of the calling he has placed upon us. We declare again our availability and our readiness, as senior officers, to go anywhere to do anything at any time under God and within the structures of the Church, seeking only the advancement of his Kingdom.

We acknowledge our humanity and weakness, seeking the unique strength that God provides when we are weak and he is strong. We confess our limitedness, knowing that God is all sufficient. We abandon explicitly any desire that has sprung up in our hearts to place self first.We ask for the prayers of our fellow Christians to help us in this renewal of our covenants as soldiers and as leaders, and in so doing we recognise our vulnerability and our personal need of divine help.

In sharing this Spiritual Statement with members everywhere, it is our hope and prayer that it will be received with humble and understanding hearts, and that by the abundant grace of God it will be used to inspire and prompt others to seek with us repentance, with renewed purity and holiness in Christ.

My Personal Recommitment and Rededication
By adding my signature to this Statement, I wish to identify personally with the spirit of repentance, humility and availability shown by my comrade Church leaders gathered in conference with me in London. With renewed confidence in God, I pledge myself afresh to these shared goals of personal holiness and of seeking to do only his will in all things.

I would love for General Synod, indeed pretty much any Anglican body, to come up with something as God-focused and rich as this. Who knows, miracles do happen. In the meantime, here's where I got it from, if you've not already worked it out.