Monday, December 20, 2010

Chocolate Christmas

Breaking my blogging embargo as so many people have tweeted me for this:

Who’s looking forward to getting chocolate for Christmas? Anyone got a chocolate advent calendar?

Do believe chocolate can talk? Have you really, really listened?

Listen to the story they tell.

A long time ago, God made the Galaxy,

Beautiful, rich, wonderful

And filled it with people, people he made, people he loved, people like you and me, people who were all special to him. And he gave these people everything. Everything except one tree, one Fruit Pastille others which they were told not to eat.

But the people wanted to do things their own way, so they did a Breakaway from God. Trouble is, after the breakaway everything started to go wrong

Really really Rocky.

Suffering, pain, loneliness, bullying, violence, death

Because we’d chosen our way instead of God’s way

Everything just got really Haribo (horrible)

Couldn’t find Boost or Lion, so I omitted:
(So to give them a Boost God promised that things would change.
One day a special person would come and put things right
I’m telling you the truth, I’m not Lion.)

Many years later, a young woman was FRIGHTENED OUT OF HER WITS

When an angel suddenly turned up

The Angel wondered if he Malteser fear (‘might ease her’) Don’t be scared he said, You’re going to have a son, the Son of God, call him Jesus

A name that means he’ll save people, he’ll make them friends with God again.

And though Joseph was a bit confused, he was a good egg, you couldn’t hope to meet a Kinder man (Kinder Egg), so he decided to look after Mary, and God’s baby.

So the story goes that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem

Mary was heavily pregnant, and Joseph wondered if she’d Flake out on the journey

They finally found a room full of animals – might not have been a stable, sometimes people lived in a house with a split floor, animals on one level, people on the next, so maybe the innkeeper let them into his home. We don’t know what sort of animals were there, whether there was a Kit Kat, but by morning there was Jesus Nestle ing in his mothers arms.

All sorts of strange visitors started to turn up.

First some shepherds: they’d been up on the hillside, looking up at the Milky Way

When some angels appeared in the sky and said go and see God’s promised saviour

Tell everyone, don’t Wispa, shout it out, God is here.

So straight as an Aero they headed for Bethlehem to find Jesus.

And they were there in a Jaffa

Further away, some wise men were looking up at the planets in the sky: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, when they saw something amazing. By the way: in the ancient world, Jupiter was the ‘king star’, and at the time of the birth of Jesus, Jupiter appeared in the night sky very close to Saturn, which represented Israel. If you were reading the sky you’d see ‘new king in Israel’.

So the kings packed up their bounty – presents for the new king

And came to see Jesus. They didn’t find him at king Herods palace,

But those wise men were smarties, they didn’t give up

And when they found Jesus they brought out their Kingsize gifts, no Twix, just gifts:

Gold for a king, incense for worship, myrrh for death.

And here’s the Crunch (ie)

The baby Jesus is the Son of God, sent by God into the world

He is Divine, wrapped in human skin.

God’s gift to you: but you can only taste how good the gift is if you unwrap it.

I hope you do choose Jesus, but in the end, it’s your selection.

And remember: listen to the chocolates

before you eat them

 - works best if you actually have the chocolates there, but that depends on what's available, and whether you can get to the shops through the snow.
 - if the chocs are lined up in order, you don't really need a script.
 - I justify the use of Nestle chocolates on the grounds that nothing is beyond redemption.
 - apologies to people I've emailed this to, the Fruit Pastille section is missing!
 - for scientific correctness, you can have lots of Galaxys. Not sure what it will do for your waistline though.
 - no copyright involved anywhere, so if you come up with a better version then that's fantastic.
 - comments are off, as I'm not supposed to be blogging, but you can tweet me @davidmkeen

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Over and out.

According to the stat counter down there in the sidebar, this blog has had approaching 100,000 pageviews in the (nearly) 4 years of its existence. Which is nice. And it's enough.

I've been toying for a while with the idea of quitting permanently. Various events recently have hurried up my thought process on this. Part of me (the opinionated bit) will find it tricky - I can't find something interesting or potentially useful without wanting to go 'hey! anyone seen this?' and will have to start learning the discipline of silence. Or I could just email it to the Church Mouse.

The site will stay up for a while, to give people a chance to harvest anything that might have been useful. Comments will stay on  for a couple of weeks, but then get switched off permanently. Once the only traffic here becomes Google searches for Dave Walker cartoons, (a surprisingly high number), then the whole thing will get deleted. That's for purely selfish reasons: it'll be much easier to avoid the temptation to blog if I don't have a blog!

Thankyou to everyone for coming to visit, comment, argue etc. I hope it's been worth your while. Thanks to Steve Tilley, Ruth Gledhill, Matt Wardman and Maggi Dawn for encouragement and inspiration. It's now time for me to put my energies into other things. If you feel like using the time saved from reading my twaddle to pray for me, that would be great.

Alternatively, for local stuff try the Yeovil Blog, for a valiant attempt to make Thomas Hardy funny (almost impossible) try Lost in Wessex, or another of Gary's projects for a former Beaker Person My Gospel Right or Wrong. For new reading matter, try Charlie Peer's excellent new blog. Me, I'll be here. Staying on Twitter for the moment, but we'll see how that goes. If it becomes too distracting, then it might fall victim to the cuts...

Thanks for your company. God bless. David

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

'The Noise'

Thanks to Tim who's posted some pictures and reportage about 'The Noise' on the St. James Church Blog, and the Yeovil Blog. It's a local community festival, held last Saturday, and handily was in the park just across the road from our house.

The church spent the day giving out free drinks - probably 1000 or so juices, teas and coffees (until the percolator jammed up and the generator ran out of fuel so we couldn't use the kettle). Many thanks to those who came to help (ages 7 to 80), and for the team from Yeovil Community Church and Brympton Parish Council who did lots of the work and organising. Great fun, great weather, great event. Thankfully Tim's picture of me on the counter-intuitive bike isn't the one where I fall off.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Edited 'Highlights'

If you drop in here once every 6 months, this is the post for you! Here are the most popular pages for the first half of 2010

1. That'll Do
2. No Songs Please, We're Blokeish
3. Clergy Bullying 'rife'?
4. Rev
5. The Most Unchristian Marketing in the World, Ever?
6. Trafalgar Square Passion Play
7. '40' by Si Smith (posted ages ago, but always a popular one for Lent)
8. General Synod Headline Generator
9. 'After You Believe' new Tom Wright book.
10. Clegg 'I'm not a man of faith, sometimes I wish I was'

and thankyou to all of you who've pointed people to this site, top referring sites are:
Bishop Alan
Church Mouse
The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley
Dave Walker's Church Times Blog
Banksy Boy
The Vicars Wife (not mine!)
Tim Chesterton
Maggi Dawn
Phil Ritchie
Rev Lesley

plus the odd visitor from Twitter and Facebook... Thanks for dropping by.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Start 'Em Young

To cheer us all up after the World Cup, Dave Walker is uploading a clutch of new cartoons, of which this is one. You're allowed to reproduce them if you have one of Dave's licenses - I regularly put one or two onto church publicity cards, mission newsletters etc. That plus a Su Doku ensures that, if people don't read them, at least they don't throw them away......

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Full, Empty.

"If you fill your calendar with important appointments
you will have no time for God

If you fill your spare time with essential reading
You will starve your soul.

If you fill your mind with worry about budgets and offerings
the pains in your chest and the ache in your shoulders will betray you.

If you try to conform to the expectations ofthose around you
You will be forever their slave

Work a modest day, then step back and rest.
This will keep you close to God.
(William Martin 'Rest')

Friday, July 02, 2010

Fresh Expressions of Architecture

A quick plug in the direction of the Churchcare website, which I stumbled across this week. It seems to be aimed at Anglican churches, but might be useful for anyone with a listed church building.

There are case studies of redevelopment projects, advice on hosting post offices, visitors, school visits, running a community shop from church premises, and a grants section. Good resource if you're looking at how to develop/rethink use of your Victorian barn/medieval village chapel that somehow ended up as an urban parish church/community icebox with added seating and internal rainfall.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Last Instrumental Worship Album...Ever!

I've already had a rant about the 'Best.... Ever' marketing and I'm tempted to do it all again. This kind of hype has no place in so-called 'Christian' business.

However, given the title, I can assume this will be the last ever intrumental worship CD produced by Kingsway, hot on the heels of their last ever collections of hymns, worship songs etc. After all, as Phil Groom points out, if the title really is true, then what's the point in producing anything else?

I also note that "The Best...Album in the World, Ever" is a registered trademark of the Virgin group. So if someone produced something that really was the best, they wouldn't be allowed to say so without being taken to court by Richard Branson. Nice.

For something a bit more in depth, Internet Monk is well worth a read today, looking at the whole enterprise of the 'Christian' market and the kind of things it consumes. 

Slightly more modest (actually how could anything be only 'slightly' more modest than this CD title? ) is the 'offer of the decade' from Church House, on hardback volumes from the Common Worship series. Some very hefty discounts.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


One of our bishops was stranded in Egypt by the volcanic ash:

"we discovered a small, hassle free, souvenirshop, and enjoyed the conversation with our elderly Egyptian host. On the third visit with some days still to go before our rescheduled return flight, I explained our frustration at not being able to return home.

'You must not be disappointed', he said, 'you are a gift to us'. He really meant it,and his words struck home. From that moment we both saw the rest of our stay as a gift, and the frustration gave way to opportunity and enjoyment."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Harry Potter Trailer

if it's half as good as the book, then it should be a cracker.

'Rev' iew

Saw 'Rev' last night on BBC2, there's clearly been enough water under the bridge in Dibley Village Green for a new TV vicar sitcom. Here are some of the reviews in blogland so far:

Orange blogs notes how middle class the sitcom is, despite the setting. More here.
Saintly Ramblings liked it and spotted some inside knowledge by the scriptwriters
'More real than Dibley' says Paul Roberts. But then so are most things...
Kevin Scott
onetimothyfour sees a blend of stereotypes and decent research
Rectory Musings 'so rare to see vicars portrayed this accurately and sensitively'
Tracing Rainbows didn't like it
Thoroughly Good Blog did.

Update: thumbs up from Suite 101 and TV Pixie, and the Guardian discusses whether it's ok to fancy your vicar. Depends what she looks like, I suppose.

To which I'd add:
 - It's great to have a TV vicar with something resembling an ordinary prayer life, we haven't had that since Don Camillo. Tom Hollanders part was less of a caricature than some of the others (I loved the slimy archdeacon), and I look forward to seeing it develop.
 - The bad language wasn't necessary, but at the same time there's an attempt to put across the 'vicars are human too' point of view. How many clergy cheered when he shouted at the builders?
 - The scenarios are overblown, but mostly recognisable.
 - I'd love to get the clip where all the new families turn up in church - complete with takeaway coffee, Nintendo DS etc., and have to fumble with hymn books, standing/sitting/kneeling and an array of strange behaviour - and show it to every church leader in the CofE. And every other church for that matter.
 - It's trying harder than Dibley to be thought provoking and less hard to be outrageous/funny.
 - Pretty well researched. My concern is that it's so well researched that only Anglican insiders will 'get' some of the jokes, and everyone else will go 'huh?' (update: judging by the reviews from non-church blogs, perhaps my concern is unfounded.)
 - Tuning in again next week

Monday, June 28, 2010

Please Ignore Everything I Say

"We now have the dubious distinction of being able to communicate more and say less than any civilization in history. We have become, as Clement of Alexandria says, like old shoes - all worn out except for the tongue. And because so many words bombard us from so many media we tend to play little attention to them. Can you or I remember even a single full sentence from the last movie we saw, or the last email we reiceved? (or the last blog we read?)

What we must learn, therefore, is discernment. Some words deserve sustained attention, others do not... it is a positive virtue for us to remain ignorant of much of the attention-getting, ego-driven, greed-motivated words that whizz by on the information superhighway. We do so in order to be attentive to words that speak life into our souls. This, too, is a discipline." (Richard Foster, 'Spiritual Classics' p110)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Dancing Data

This has got to be the most creative presentation of stats on world poverty and health I've seen. Watch for the changes from 1960 to the present. Great way to capture the imagination, and communicate a message.

Had he simply produced sheets of paper with figures on, he wouldn't have got a standing ovation. The way you present the message is vital to how you get it across. The conclusion of the talk is all about this: how do you link data to design, so that the message can be heard. We need to see things as well as hear them.

Original vid and a sizeable online discussion here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

London Community Gospel Choir in Yeovil on Saturday

Just had this reminder through:

The UK’s premier Gospel Choir, the LONDON COMMUNITY GOSPEL CHOIR
Saturday 26 June – 7.30pm
Elim Pentecostal Church, Southville, Yeovil, BA21 4JA

TICKETS AVAILABLE on the door – Don’t miss this amazing event – right here in YEOVIL!

You are very welcome – we would love to see you.

Say Hi to my better half if you're there, I'm on babysitting duties. Wonder what's on TV?

Faith, Volunteering, and Community Involvement

This from Christian Research's

On 29 April 2010 the Department for Communities and Local Government released two further topic reports from the 2008-09 Citizenship Survey relating, respectively, to Empowered communities and to Volunteering and charitable giving. The Citizenship Survey is conducted by face-to-face interview among a representative sample of adults aged 16 and over in England and Wales, including an ethnic minority booster sample. NatCen conducted 14,917 interviews between April 2008 and March 2009.

The Empowered Communities report includes an analysis by religion of participation in civic engagement and formal volunteering. Of the major faith groups, Buddhists are shown to be most active (69% participate), followed by Christians (64%), those identifying with no religion (58%), Muslims (48%), Sikhs (47%) and Hindus (46%).

In terms of influencing decisions in their local area, a rather different pattern emerges. Sikhs are most hopeful (61%), followed by Muslims (49%), Hindus (48%), Buddhists (47%), Christians (39%) and those of no religion (37%). All groups feel they have much less say over decision-making at national level, the high being 49% for Sikhs and the low 20% for those identifying with no religion.

The Volunteering and Charitable Giving topic report includes no breaks by religious affiliation, but the links between faith and volunteering are analysed. For example, of those who have engaged in formal volunteering during the past twelve months, 33% have helped religious organisations. The proportion of the population that undertake voluntary work rises progressively with age, from 22% among the 16 to 25s, to 50% for the over 75s age group.

Places of worship are a source of information about potential opportunities for formal volunteering for 21% of the sample, but especially for those aged 65 and over (35%). Religious motivations for regular formal volunteering are cited by 17% of all adults and by twice this number among the elderly and ethnic minorities.

When it comes to charitable giving, 74% of adults give to charity of whom one-fifth (15%) give through a collection at a place of worship.

The reports are available to download from the department for Communities and Local Government.
But you'd better crack on, as 'all content on this website is being reviewed'

Research Brief is a monthly e-newsletter, and you can subscribe via admin (at)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nursing and Spiritual Care

Missed this at the time:

Patients missing out on spiritual care, say nurses
Published: 12 May 2010

Patients are missing out on important spiritual care despite it being a nursing ‘fundamental’, according to nurses who responded to a new RCN survey published today (28 April).

The survey of over 4,000 nurses found that only a small minority (5%) felt that they could always meet the spiritual needs of patients, and the vast majority (80%) felt that spirituality should be covered in nurse education as a core aspect of nursing.

The most important spiritual need identified by nurses was having respect for privacy, dignity and religious and cultural beliefs (94%). Spending time with patients giving support and reassurance especially in a time of need (90%) and showing kindness, concern and cheerfulness when giving care (83%) were also key concerns.

Today’s survey shows how important nurses view meeting the spiritual needs of patients. Almost all (90%) feel that providing spiritual care improves the overall quality of nursing care, and the vast majority (83%) believe spirituality is a fundamental aspect of nursing, even for patients with no religious beliefs.

Other findings include:
• the overwhelming majority (80%) feel that the need for spiritual care also applies to atheists and agnostic
• 91% of nurses believe that they can provide spiritual care by listening, and allowing patients time to discuss their fears, anxieties and troubles
• almost all (94%) do not believe that spirituality involves only going to church or a place of worship.

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the RCN, said:
“Nurses are clearly recognising a need in their patients for care which addresses more than just their physical symptoms. Nurses of all ages and generations are telling us that spiritual care is fundamental to why they became a nurse. However, this is not about harking back to an age of daily prayers on wards – instead it is about personalised care and giving nurses guidance and time to get to know their patients as people rather than just their medical conditions.”

The RCN believes that there should be clear guidance for nurses and other healthcare professionals to allow them to approach spiritual issues sensitively and with confidence while being able to meet the needs of patients. Nurses in this survey made it clear that spirituality is the joint responsibility of nurses, patients, chaplains, families and other health professions working together.

Nurses detailed their views on the meaning of spirituality. One said:
“I consider spirituality to be part of the ‘whole’ care one should be giving to patients and families. To me it means ensuring that the ‘mind’, i.e. thoughts, worries etc, as well as the body, is considered when providing care.”

Another said:
“I am a Christian. However, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to impose my beliefs on others while they are in a vulnerable position. What I do believe is that I support them in the particular spiritual needs during that time – whether they be Christian, Muslim, Atheist, whatever. It is their right to be treated as a whole, unique person and it is our duty, as nurses, to treat all our patients holistically, for the person they are and the beliefs that they hold. Physical care has to be tailored to each individual and so should spiritual care.”

full press release here. Two immediate thoughts:
1. 'Spiritual care' could just as well be described as 'holistic care' - giving someone time and a listening ear isn't overtly 'spiritual'.

2. It sounds like nurses themselves would like to work holistically, to attend to patients as whole people, not just as bodies with symptoms. Whether they have the time to do this is another matter (or perhaps it's just that the targets are all to do with bodies?), and there seems to be a call for the skills and knowledge to offer more spiritual care. In turn, that might mean that part of the chaplains role is enabling and encouraging nursing staff to offer spiritual care on the job, rather than simply being on the other end of a pager if a patient/family wants someone to talk to.

An experience: At one NHS hospital, having had a consultation for a medical condition which I was quite worried about, the doctor pronounced me fine and then left as quickly as he possibly could. I had lots of questions, and would have been much more reassured and less anxious if I'd had the time to ask them - or at least felt that I had the time to ask them. It felt like my questions weren't an inconvenience a person who clearly had better things to do than talk to me. The body was treated but the rest of me seemed to be incidental. I have to say our GP is excellent in this regard, though he must be sick of the sight of me by now!

Ht Christian Research, who have updated their website, it now looks much better, well done them.

From Stalin to Mr Bean counter

Checking the Department for Communities and Local Government this morning for any info about Grant Shapps talk on housing later today, I noticed that the dates are all printed in Russian (at least I think it's Russian):

Added: 23 Июнь 2010

I don't know if this is a hangover from New Labour, a glitch in the software, or some wag who didn't like the budget and wants to jump the queue to become an 'efficiency saving'.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

'Rev' new BBC2 Sitcom

Dave Walker notes the arrival of a new sitcom on BBC2 next Monday, 'Rev' starring the superb Tom Hollander. It's about a run down inner city parish, with the standard array of peculiar characters (Vicar of Dibley minus the animals?). Hollander says of the programme in an interview with the Scotsman: In a very modest way, it is pro the church and pro this vicar. I emerged from this show with a great deal of respect for vicars. They put up with a lot and do really good work for people having a bad time.

lots of interesting stuff in the above interview, for example:

Hollander, reckons clergymen make a good subject for comedy. "We all struggle to behave well, but it's more extreme for vicars because they look sillier when things go wrong."

He has a theory as to why writers have so often been drawn to men and women of the cloth. "Stories about vicars are always being told because they're at the heart of our society. Vicars touch all parts of the community and see life in all its extremity."

They meet everyone from people grieving for lost loved ones to those approaching imminent death to the homeless to youngsters eager learn about life. They cover all the bases. As a vicar, you're the one person who can't say no – your door is always open. So writing a comedy about a vicar, you can go down pretty much any route. It's a terrific narrative spur."

"The vicar is an eternally fascinating character," continues the actor, who has previously played a more pompous parson, Mr Collins, in Pride And Prejudice. "The church is still one of the pillars of our society. Christian morality is in our daily lives whether we recognise it as Christian or not. When we get christened or married or die, we drift naturally in the direction of the church. And in moments of crisis, when our spiritual Tom-Tom is no longer telling us what to do, we find ourselves scrabbling at the vicarage door."

Follow the link to Dave's Church Times blog for other links on the programme. It'll be interesting to see if it's another Dibley-style ensemble comedy. Judging by the clip above, it's reasonably well researched, but asking a vicar to comment on something like this is like asking a nurse to comment on Holby City. I'd love it to achieve the ideal balance between comedy and realism, but a decent script will do. "Nigel, wouldn't you like to help me weed out some hypocrites?"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paying Respects

BBC4 has a 'Fatherhood Season' running at the moment. A programme last night looked at fathering styles in the early 20th century, and tried to make the case that the 'strict Victorian dad', with children seen and not heard, was a caricature.

I was most struck by an old mans recollection of his own fathers funeral. As he rode in the cortege as a boy he saw people stop by the road, remove their hats or touch their heads, and he remembers feeling a great pride that people were stopping to respect and honour his father. So, he said, whenever I see a funeral procession go past I stop and pay my respects, just in case there's a another little boy in there looking out.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Comings and Goings

The late lamented Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley have updated us with the whereabouts of their merrie band of oddbods. Meanwhile Archdruid Eileen has reappeared, or perhaps regenerated, Time Lord style, in the world of Thomas Hardy. I'm sure it makes sense to somebody.....

More permanently, Revd Alan has hung up his keyboard

Farewell of a different sort to Ruth Gledhill, whose blog is now going behind the Times paywall, taking it out of mainstream circulation. I think that rather defeats the point of blogging, and from the comments left on Ruths blog it doesn't look like many of her readers will be prepared to pay up to read it. We shall see. The Times site now looks like an expanded front page, but you have to register/pay to access the main content. I imagine other papers are watching with interest.

Still on paywalls, having found the Church Times cricket reports were fully available last week, they've now gone behind the subscriber paywall again. We're through to the quarter-finals, though depending on how that goes it may be best to keep it hidden!

Newish on the blogroll
The Vernacular Curate

I've probably linked to Bosco Peters Liturgy blog before, but its much more interesting than the title suggests!

Christian Intel Daily is a good site if you're laid up with the flu or can't sleep, an ecletic collection of news, blogs, etc. It's US based, judging by the content, but there's quite a large blogroll to work through.

Now that the whole SPCK/SSG debacle is over, Phil Groom can be found on the Christian Bookshops blog, keeping an eye on the Christian publishing industry, book trade, marketing tactics and other issue. I liked this story:
what can we do as Christian booksellers and retailers to help those whose lives and relationships are blighted by porn?
The Kotisatama Christian Bookshop in Helsinki came up with a simple answer when an organisation called the ‘Freethinkers’ launched a campaign offering people pornography in exchange for religious literature: they offered people free New Testaments in exchange for their porn magazines.
That’s what I call mission on the high street.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Praise Him on the Vuvuzuela

Having noted a few days ago that I wasn't aware of any church yet using the vuvuzuela in worship, the Church Times has just reported this:

A South African newspaper, the Mail and Guardian, has reported that the vuvuzela is commonly used in church services in neighbouring Bots­wana. One Botswana church­goer, Jacqueline Chireshe, explained: “The vuvuzela is a biblical instru­ment; it is a trumpet, and God expects us to blow the trumpet in offering praise to him.”

Last year, members of the Nazareth Baptist Church, founded in 1910, unsuccessfully argued that they owned the copyright on the instrument, which was used on an annual pilgrimage to a mountain in KwaZulu-Natal which they consider to be holy.

So there you have it. One persons worship is another persons wasps nest amplified to 140decibels. I imagine if it's 'used in neighbouring Botswana', it can still be heard in services in South Africa. Still waiting for them to go on sale in Tescos.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fathers Day 'World Cup' Talk

By popular demand (ok, as a result of one comment yesterday), here's the notes for my all-age talk for Fathers Day.

How is a father like a football team?

Striker/Attacker: goes and gets the goals. Fathers are often the breadwinner, on the front line. They also need to provide leadership, to help their families win.

Defender: protects the family, tackles what needs to be tackled (from DIY, to conflict issues within the family) – tackle the threats to your family: bad influences, habits, temptation, making sure the family spends time together, talks, plays.

Goalkeeper: or goal-keeper. What are your goals? Do you have an idea of the kind of family you’d like to be? Fathers need to have a vision of the good family and to promote it and work towards it. Sometimes it's easier to let things drift. Also, sometimes the goalkeeper has to pick the ball out of the net – times when you’ve got to be humble, and admit that things have failed. But then you start again.

Midfield: lots of running around, joining things up, keep things connected. Connect to your wife – talk, have special time with each other (when did you last have an evening out? Church/cells should enable this – babysit kids so that mothers and fathers can have quality time together). Connect to your children – play, spend time with them, show them the things you’re passionate about (taught my kids to play cards and cricket). Connect with other dads and men, need support.

Finally, stay in touch with the Manager.

all of the above with pics of the relevant England players on powerpoint. Or, if we lose tonight, South Americans. It needs quite a bit of polishing up, and we're going to give out Mars bars to all the blokes in church ('work rest and play' as the old slogan went, and they're all World Cup themed this year).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baptism Merchandise

Scouring Tesco online for some world cup themed tat*, I came across this, one of several items in their range for baptism/christening parties. Tesco are savvy enough to have tabs both for 'Baptism' and 'Christening' in their menu, even though both link to pretty much the same stuff. It's the same event, but it's called 'baptism' by church people and 'christening' by everyone else.

There's also an attempt to jump on the bandwagon of new wedding traditions by selling baptism themed 'favours' - presents that guests are given simply for turning up (? never really understood this). There's also some interesting 'table decorations', including confetti in the form of tiny crosses. It's an odd thing to be throwing about at a party, considering what it symbolises, but like baptism itself the cross has been detached from its moorings in history and meaning and has become, like St. George's flag, a 'nice' symbol to be wheeled out on appropriate occasions.

I guess it's all reasonably tasteful, but I'm slightly twitchy about it too.

* I'm looking for something to give to all the blokes in church which isn't flowers (too girly) or beer (too pricey/potentially controversial). Sunday's Fathers day talk will be on a football theme, focusing on a Dad's role as striker, defender, goalkeeper and midfielder. And the need to stay in touch with the Manager. But that's another story.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fathers Day '24'

This is great

Father's Day 24 from Flue on Vimeo.

And yes, it's probably too late to order the Fathers Day resources from CVM in time for Sunday. The ladies will have already done this but no, typical men, we've left it until the last moment and now it's too late.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

2 minute intro to 'Missional Church'

Ht Start the Week. A bit black and white, but it's hard to be critical of something which puts things so simply. Which church most resembles yours?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weddings 101

The Weddings Project has 7 top tips for vicars taking weddings this summer:

1. Introduce yourself with a smile
- some people are surprised to find how relaxed and friendly vicars really are.

2. Make those practical 'housekeeping' notices about confetti and phones before the bride comes in
- so the theatre of her arrival starts the service with style.

3. Make them in a permissive, friendly fashion
- how about: "make sure you turn your mobile back on after the service"?

4. Encourage everyone to make themselves at home
- let people know where they are free to move about, let children come forward or stand on a pew for a good view.

5. Practice the promise the guests will make
- some people think they have to whisper in church, but when you rehearse the guests 'we will' before the bride arrives, it really breaks the ice.

6. Have a paparazzi moment
- make sure everyone gets a good angle for photos or video, even if you have to restage the big moment at the end of the service.

7. Help guests keep their promise with prayer
- give a promise and prayer card to every guest. They can keep it by the bed or the kitchen sink and pray every day for the happy couple.

The prayer on the guest card reads: “Dear God, pour out the abundance of your blessing on them. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts and a crown upon their heads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; awake and asleep, in joy and in sorrow, in life and in death. Amen.”

There's a good page here with all sorts of resources for clergy for weddings, and marriage preparation. The Weddings Project has done some good work in talking to couples, guests and churches about what makes for a 'good wedding', and there's now a card designed specially for wedding guests as a memento of the day, with a prayer for the couple. It's a great idea, similar to the cards we give to godparents after a baptism (perhaps a card for baptism guests is the obvious next step?)

I'm both gratified and bemused by the comments I get after weddings. Gratified because there are some nice ones. Bemused, because people have obviously been to weddings which have been somewhere between uninspiring and an ordeal. We need to raise our game.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

...Like a Noisy Vuvuzuela, or a Clashing Cymbal...

The South African organisers of the World Cup are getting a bit of pressure to ban the vuvuzuela. I'm not yet aware of any church embracing them as a fresh expression of irritation:

Jordaan (the South African organiser) admitted he was not a huge fan of them himself. "I would prefer singing," he said.
"It's always been a great generator of a wonderful atmosphere in stadiums and I would try to encourage them to sing.
"In the days of the struggle (against apartheid) we were singing, all through our history it's our ability to sing that inspired and drove the emotions."

I'm struck by these comments about singing, and its place in history and culture. Occasionally there's debates here and elsewhere about the place of singing in church, and whether it's off-putting to newcomers, or people who aren't used to singing. Culturally, I'm not really sure where the UK is at. We'll do mass singalongs at football matches and concerts, but singing in smaller gatherings is now pretty unusual. There was a picture of a South African living room on the news a couple of nights ago, complete with dancing, vuvuzuelas, etc., in a gathering of roughly a dozen people. We Brits need lots more than that to get the anonymity we need to lose our inhibitions.

But perhaps if there was a cacophonous din that could only be drowned out by loud corporate singing, we might find our voices again....?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Giant Pumpkin Competition

Something for the weekend...

Introducing the inaugural Giant Pumpkin competition. Fun for all, just apply at the Potting Shed and take away a free planted giant pumpkin seed (Atlantic Giant) to germinate and grown on. Attend the weigh-in on 2nd October 2010. Heaviest pumpkin wins! Come and get your free, planted seed at the Potting Shed from 22nd May 2010. Full instructions provided. Click here for more info

Can you beat the world record of 1,725lbs (784Kgs) or the UK record of 915lbs (415Kgs)?

The competition is proving very popular, we have a few free seeds left and have planted them up and watered them. Collect your seedling soon while stocks last.

There, you were wondering what to do to take your mind off the football. Any more games like last night and they'll be calling Sir Terry Wogan out of retirement to do the commentary.

Bloggers note: a Rubicon is crossed with this post. This blog now has a 'gardening' label. Watch out for others in the set such as 'mid life crisis' 'Harley Davidson' 'beer belly' 'in the good old days' and 'Alan Titchmarsh'. If the full set is completed then please do bring capability proceedings against me, as I'll clearly need to be restrained for my own safety.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Angel of the North's Halo Discovered at Last

An enduring mystery of the North East has been solved, with the unveiling today of this next to Middlesborough football stadium:

It's a £2.7m bit of artwork designed by sculptor Anish Kapoor, called 'Temenos', and is planned to be one of 5 giant bits of art on the Tees Valley. Any similarity to a giant ankle support, or indeed a Slinky, is purely coincidental. The other possible inspiration could be a giant pair of handcuffs.

If it was informed cultural commentary you were after, try here.

'Temenos' is a Greek word meaning a piece of land set aside for the worship of pagan gods. Maybe the Angel will be wanting his halo back. And his frisbee.

Nazareth Ultrasound

In a valiant attempt to trump World Cup fever with the Christmas rush, the Churches Advertising Network have unveiled their contribution to Christmas 2010. I was impressed with their bus stop nativity scene last year, and this is just as provocative and eye-catching.

More thoughts on this at Phil's Treehouse, Deiknuo, and Bishop Nick (responding to some of the scoffers), and I particularly like his conclusion:

This poster is designed to arrest the attention of the usually disinterested. It is aimed at awakening the imagination, teasing the curiosity and provoking fresh consideration of the heart of Christianity – precisely what Jesus did with parables, images and stories. No, it doesn’t cover all the bases and deal comprehensively with every theological nuance; but it gives a huge kick start to thinking about what Christmas is all about.

Elsewhere the Daily Fail , like SPUC, tries to turn this into a story about abortion. There's a different perspective from The Lay Scientist.

Just to re-read that tagline: Christmas starts with Christ. Not a debate about abortion. Wouldn't it be sad if an ultrasound image, the first picture of a new life, just became a symbol of a debate about death?
Though at least I now know what happened after my wife swallowed her wedding ring.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Thomas Aquinas and David Laws

'Thinking Faith', the online journal of the British Jesuits, has just posted a piece on the morality (or otherwise) of the David Laws/Daily Telegraph episode. A snippet:

St Thomas Aquinas treats an action as gravely wrong when it harms another, for this breaks the second of the great commandments on which the whole of the law is based – to love one’s neighbour as oneself. Nobody can doubt that David Laws has been harmed, and badly harmed.

We have also been harmed. The media, not our elected representatives, have determined the composition of our government. It is for the Prime Minister to require the resignation of a minister or for the Commons to demand it on our behalf; in this case the media have illegitimately usurped a power that belongs to us and is only to be exercised by our representatives.

I'm not usually an avid reader of Catholic moral philosophy, so for me the article is a novel approach to the issue, and comes out strongly in defence of David Laws, and (as you can see) in criticism of the Telegraph. As a Yeovil constituent, I know a lot of people who speak well of Laws as an MP, and I strongly hope he stays on as an MP, and that he still gets the chance to play a part in government. It's possible to make a case both for and against his conduct: sympathy with his fear of people's reactions to his sexuality is tempered by the taxpayers money involved (though it would probably have cost us more for Laws to lodge with someone he didn't know.) It's right to demand high standards of those in power, but it's also right to show mercy and give people a second chance.

I find it hard to be outraged over what David Laws has done, but I don't find it so hard to be outraged over what the Telegraph has done. The timing itself is 'interesting', and I can't really see how it's in the public interest to tip out from office the kind of able and (increasingly) credible politician that we need to see us through the present mess.

Enough has been written about this already, my only addition would be to call for a review of local Libdem campaigning literature. This made much of a) David Laws expenses record (clean as a whistle) and b) His Conservative opponent's living arrangments in London. To say these now look seriously misguided is a bit of an understatement.

Last word to David Laws, whose interview with the Western Gazette is well worth a read to understand where he's coming from. He's more gracious to the Telegraph than I am, does mercy extend to the media....???

Mr Laws went on: "When I was born it was less than ten years or so after homosexuality was decriminalised, and there was still a lot of prejudice in society, as there is now, although a lot less now.

"And at school, among family and everybody I knew, it was not regarded as something that was acceptable or easily understood. When you are young you are afraid of being seen to be different and it is easier to lie, and that was easy given that I didn't have any relationships for a large part of my life.

"You more you lie to people the more difficult it becomes to un-lie and tell the truth. I have always been quite a shy and private person. I wanted to go into politics and public service but didn't want to have to tell people about my sexuality.

"I guess it was pretty stupid really, because all of the people I have spoken to since Friday have accepted it without hesitation – my parents, family and friends.

"Not being honest with them has meant a huge price over recent years. I have had to keep a large part of my life secret. My family and friends have never been able to meet my partner, and it's meant that I have had a growing distance between some of these people because of the inability to be honest with them.

"And also I feel, as a politician, a bit of shame not to have set a better example to people who have the same issues and who might expect a bit more leadership from the top."

He feels some relief that this secret is out.
"I have heard from lots of friends over the past few days who said it didn't matter to them, or they didn't care about my sexuality, and to be able to meet them in the future, to be honest with them, to meet them with James, will be a huge relief," he said.

"I will always owe The Daily Telegraph that they have allowed me to be more honest about who I am and that part of it will lead to a greater happiness and sense of reconciliation in my personal life."

(Update: it was odd to hear 5 live reporting as 'news' this morning David Laws saying that he was grateful to the Telegraph, since these are words he wrote in the Western Gazette on 3rd June, even if they were only posted on his blog yesterday. It used to only be news if it appeared on telly, now it's only news if it appears on a blog!)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Religious Atheism

Interesting take on atheism as a cultural/religous phenomenon in the New Scientist. Here's an extract from an interview with scientist and teacher Bernard Beckett, who writes fiction books based on scientific themes chaired an event for Richard Dawkins and, as a result, shifted your views from atheism to agnosticism. Why the conversion?

The event sold out very quickly. The people were huge fans of Dawkins, and being amongst a group of card-carrying atheists was something I'd never experienced before.

I'd probably have called myself an atheist at the time. But normally, that means going your own way and creating your own response.

Instead, it felt more like being in church. Suddenly, there were a whole heap of people who seemed to be responding as one. To me, that reproduced some of the things I disliked about the church I was brought up in, because leaps are made from atheism to other beliefs that you are meant to have as well.

For instance, the belief that there is something negative about the influence of religion, which I don't necessarily think is true. It's a very complex sociological question that would take a lot of research, but suddenly, if you're one of us, you also have to be against religion.

At that point I feel uncomfortable. I also felt uncomfortable with the idea of wanting to convert people; to atheism in this case. It felt evangelical, and that's not my instinct at all.
There was an issue of New Scientist recently, where
Marcelo Gleiser wrote about the search for the theory of everything. Gleiser believes that this is a bit of a hangover from religion.
For some people, like Dawkins, science is about beauty and meaning and truth. I'm really uncomfortable with that. I don't think science is about that at all.

Science is a little bit more than a wonderful way of modelling and predicting, it's a wonderful technical abstraction. I think science is a really wonderful technical abstraction.

I can't see any great evidence that humans have any ability to access anything other than the material world. Beyond that, who knows, but there's no good evidence that would take me to any particular belief. And that seems to me to me to be a more rigorous view and one I'm much more comfortable with.

This does strike a chord: just as there's a culture within church circles which contains lots of things which have nothing to do with Christianity, there also seems to be a culture around certain popularisers of atheism which goes a long way beyond science.

However, if you think that you're right and that someone who disagrees with you is wrong, then it seems a bit postmodern just to let everyone have their own point of view, and not get a bit 'evangelical'. I'm not a scientist, but if certain things are scientific facts then it's probably a good thing to teach/persuade other people of them. Ok we can be less sure about the existence or otherwise of God, but if you can only argue for a position if it's certain, how on earth do you discover whether or not it's certain in the first place...?

Being 'evangelical' about atheism logically follows from being an atheist: religion must look like a massive and self-indulgent waste of time, resources and effort, and people are much better being persuaded to do something more useful. The same impulse also follows from believing in God, though for different reasons!

But what Beckett hints at is that, as well as being a reasoned position, evangelical (or 'religious'?) atheism has also become a cultural boundary marker for a certain social/intellectual group. Heck, they've even got merchandise. The church, sadly, has reams of examples of what happens when you forget the difference between a cultural boundary marker, and a core belief. I'm even required by church law to wear some of them.

But maybe that's a feature of any ideology or intellectual movement: the beliefs have to take form within a culture, and be expressed, or else it's all purely theoretical. And once they do that, the outward form of the belief is often the first bit of it that outsiders encounter, and it becomes part of the package. Is 'evangelical' atheism bound to develop its own subculture?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Catch them Doing Something Right

The faster way to improved behaviour
There is a principle that is called ‘Catching your children doing something right’. As mothers, fathers, step-parents – even as employers – we’re used to catching people doing something wrong and criticizing them for it.

But the faster and more effective way to improved behaviour is to catch them doing something right and encourage them in it. Many of us, even as adults, are crushed by the constant pointing out of where we go wrong. This is a great tragedy – when the ear never hears praise, the heart loses the will to try.

When you get the hang of catching people doing something right, you can often find the opportunity to encourage – even when it’s not that easy.

The elderly grandmother went to watch her grandson at the school Sports Day. Tom didn’t get into the final of the 100 metres or the 200 metres, and he was unplaced in the longer races as well. In fact, the only event in which he looked remotely comfortable was the egg and spoon race, but even then he came last. As Tom and his grandmother walked away together, the little boy’s head was down until she put her arm around him and whispered, “You were the only one whose egg didn’t fall off the spoon.”

That young boy never did make it as a sportsman, but against the odds he did achieve great things in other areas of his life. I’m not surprised…

… It’s hard to fail with a grandmother like that.

Read the rest, by Rob Parsons, here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

High Street Good Samaritan

The most obvious translation of the parable of the Good Samaritan into the present day is the 'have a go heroes' who intervene when someone is getting beaten up by a gang. Here is a different version of the story, involving a man on the road from M&S to WHS.....

Whilst in Yeovil WH Smiths today I witnessed an elderly gent being accosted by the Talk Talk sales team (Safety in number). They enticed him into a conversation which it was obvious he did not want.

I left them to talk for a while, I was in no doubt this gent did not have the slightest interest in the product. The sales man was still keen to keep going.Enough was enough, I intervened, I asked the gent if he wanted to know more or be free to continue on his day. The gent looked relieved.

I asked to see a manger for WH Smiths, I think I spoke to the assistant manger (no introduction or badge). Who didn’t really appear even slightly interested, he said that the sales people on the door are arranged by head office, and that they had complaints before. With a little more pressure he agreed to speak to the sales people.

Save someone from a gang of robbers today! Thinking about Christian witness on the high street, maybe a far more effective and loving 'ministry' would be to replace the open air preaching/drama/dance/thurible juggling with teams of Good Samaritans who can loiter near the people with clipboards who prowl the pedestrianised zones and shopping centres, intervening to give people the chance to walk away if it looks like they're being pressurised into signing anything.

ht Yeovil Blog.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Eco Towns - Green Light or Red Light?

I wonder what the future will be for the planned 'Eco Town' near Yeovil. This report from the Independent suggests that the 'Eco Towns' planned under Labour will be shelved as part of the savings plans under the new government.

Here's the relevant snippet:
Gordon Brown's flagship scheme for eco-towns across the UK is set to be scrapped by the coalition. Cash for the second wave of developments, announced earlier this year, has been frozen and the scheme is under review, The IoS has learnt.

The first wave of four eco-towns was announced last year and will go ahead.
But the housing minister, Grant Shapps, said last night: "We will back new eco-developments with broad-based local support that are genuinely sustainable. We will not impose eco-town developments on communities that do not want them." (comment - that means nobody will get any, as I've yet to hear of a community that was happy to lose large chunks of countryside to new housing)

Mr Shapps's Labour predecessor, John Healey, said: "The shelving of the eco-town programme is a clear signal of what we can expect from Cameron's government. Having feigned concern for the environment and gestured about empowering councils, the Tories' true colours are coming through – and what they said before the election bears little resemblance to decisions they're now taking."

The move is set to anger councils – many Tory-run – that requested eco-town developments and have already spent money on plans.

At present there's nothing new on the Communities department website, though the banner at the top says "we are reviewing all content on this website". I'll bet. New eco town proposals are still being submitted, though with the scrapping of regional planning, it will be up to local councils to push them, rather than respond to the regional plans. The Yeovil proposal was in response to the South-Wests 'Regional Spatial Strategy' which called for a 5000 home 'urban extension' to the town.

A group representing house builders has warned of a 'dangerous void' in planning policy, with the new government clearer on what it's scrapping than what it's going to replace it with. If the regional planning system isn't there to translate population projections into local provision of housing, services and infrastructure for new businesses, then will 'the market' simply sort it all out? I thought we'd worked out that faith in 'the market' was vanity?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Something to Believe In

Whilst I can still do so for free, here's a piece from the Times earlier this week. Maurice Saatchi calls for the new government to give us a Big Idea to believe in.

One by one, our most basic beliefs have turned into myths.

We used to believe in caring socialism, until it reminded us of the Russian station masters who sent out empty trains in the middle of the night to meet their state targets. We used to believe in capitalism, until we were introduced to the “free market” called banking, where five companies control 80 per cent of all transactions and two of them went bust. We used to believe in proud nationalism, until we recognised that the combination of globalisation, devolution, and immigration make it seem an uncomfortable anachronism. In Britain today, the great Hollywood law that “nobody knows anything” should be “nobody believes anything”.

You could add God to the list of faiths/big ideas no longer held or believed in by a significant number. This is postmodernism in all its glory. Or perhaps, postmodernism Part 2. In Part 1, there were still enough people who held to 'metanarratives', big explanations/stories of the events of history, big philosophies which explained everything, whether it was God, capital, The People, or Progress.

In Postmodernism Part 2, the Big Stories have gone. They're held as articles of faith by a diminishing remnant, but are no longer mainstream. Saatchi notes Camerons well-documented pragmatism, and lack of a single, overriding philosophy:

Our new leader has the intellect, the charisma and the courage for history to judge him “a great prime minister”. To deserve the title, he will have to ignore the Conservative press officer who replied to a query about his party’s philosophy: “If you want philosophy, read Descartes”, and the Conservative candidate who agreed: “We don’t want philosophy and fluff”.

Now it might be that the age of ideology was just that, an age which has been and gone. But there has always been a big story somewhere, whether it was the medieval Catholic worldview, the Enlightenment, the British Empire etc. Nowadays 'believe' is an advertising slogan for Guiness, or football, I forget which. It's something very short term, a brief exertion of will and wishful thinking, packaged as entertainment.

Saatchis prescription is to reread Marx, the Declaration of Independence, and the Sermon on the Mount: To read them afresh is to understand the power of belief. They are all cries against the injustice of the established order. Like our Prime Minister, these authors all wanted “power to the people!” Their aim was revolution. Their effect was revelation. Um, yeeeeeeesssss, as Jeremy Paxman might say. Not the most accurate summary of the Sermon on the Mount I've ever read, but it's still an intriguing choice. The USA still has a couple of Big Ideas on the go, one is its own self-belief as a global agent of righteousness, the other (connected) one is in God. Apart from blind faith in Fabio Capello, you'd be hard pushed to find any left in England.

So what happens post-postmodernism? Is part 3 that the world is recolonised by those who do believe in a Big Story (China, Islam)? Can we manage, as a society and as individuals, without a big picture of how the world fits together? If there is nothing to be sceptical of, would we have to create something? And how does belief in Jesus as the agent of God's kingdom, a big story which covers all of creation and all of history, work in this context?

And politically, how long can a party survive if it doesn't have a philosophy? If everything is pragmatism, then all politics comes down to personality - do I trust the pragmatic instincts of Polician C over Policitian L or Politician LD. If there's no philosophy guiding those instincts, then ultimately there's no other way of judging which is better or worse.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It's Death Jimbo, But Not as We Know It

With the end of Ashes to Ashes last Friday, there now won't be anything worth watching on TV until the BBC gets the rights to The Ashes back in a few years time. The rest of the world has probably forgotten about it already, but as I only caught up with the finale on Iplayer yesterday.....

It turned out that the series was set in a form of Purgatory. There can't be many TV series that last for 3 series (5 if you count Life on Mars) where all the main characters are dead. Gene Hunt, it turns out, was also a dead cop, whose role it was to see other cops who died before their time safely through the right door. In A2A, the door in question is a pub.

If a round in the Railway Arms was heaven (echoes of the banquet parables?), then Hell was the basement of a police station, with Jim Keats as Satan. He plays the role of the tempter/tester all the way through, questioning the teams faith in Hunt, and trying to lure them away from him. At the end though, the team still have a choice - do they step through the door Keats is offering them, or do they choose to walk away. Temptation never forces you to do anything, the choice is still ours.

There's even an echo of CS Lewis 'Screwtape Letters' in the reports which Jim Keats 'files' on the A2A website: Do you like to be called “sir”, sir? I don’t. Don’t like Chief Inspector or even Mister. I like it when people call me “Jimmy” or “Jimbo” or “Pencil Neck” or “Four Eyes”. Why? Because it means they are under-estimating me. And that is when I am at my most effective. My most powerful. Discuss.

Later on : As for my report on DCI Hunt - it is finished. I must say, it makes for fascinating reading. Fascinating.
“And you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”
John Chapter 8, verse 32. I believe. I know my Bible. Must know almost every verse.

I'm kicking myself now that I didn't pick up those clues, unlike a colleague in my pub quiz team who gave me his idea of what was happening last week, and turned out to be pretty much spot on. The writers are completely up front about Keats being the Devil (see 'The Conclusion' vid here). And it turns out my theory about the Quattro numberplate and a link to July 7th was completely wrong. The biggest clue of all, of course, is the title of the show.

The spell in purgatory/limbo seems to function a bit like the Wizard of Oz (which gets repeatedly referenced through the series). Ray comes to terms with his guilt and becomes both wiser and more humane (a heart?), Chris gets his courage (the lion), Shaz gets recognition. It seems to be completing the work of personal growth that was interrupted by their premature deaths, but these changes only happen because of Alex's intervention: with just Gene Hunt as their 'guv', the three are stuck. The ferryman on the Styx needed a shove to get him all the way across, and that was Alex's job.

Great ending: Hunt back in his office looking at a brochure for a new car, to replace the beloved Quattro ("you murdered my car!"), when a new arrival bursts in "where's my desk, where's my Iphone?" and Hunt is back into action. Heaven as an inn with Jesus as the landlord: 'in my Fathers house are many rooms'. Not far off. So what does really happen after we die...?..good one to chat about over a pint.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rolling Worship

No, not a fresh expression in response to the rising number of overweight people. My old chum Andy Griffiths is launching a novel approach at his church in Chelmsford. The pattern for a Sunday morning has become a series of segments:

■ 9.30am-10am liturgical, usually choir-based worship, usually without a sermon.
■ 10am-10.30am. Coffee
■ 10.30am-11am will be the core. Here there will usually be teaching by sermon, video or a choice of different modules of teaching to allow for different learning styles, from a lecture
or a discussion to “messy church” opportunities to make things. The core will always be accessible for new and non-regular worshippers, who may feel unfamiliar with traditional worship. Once a month Communion will be celebrated in the core. Andy says: “The core is our
chance to get together as one church family.”
■ More coffee from 11am-11.30am leads to:
■ Band-based worship from 11.30am-12 noon. Andy adds: “The feel will be contemporary, the liturgy will be minimal, the welcome will be warm.”
■ Children will be catered for in a variety of ways right through a Sunday morning.

Full details here (click on the June 2010 issue - at time of writing the current one - and go to page 3). People can come when they want and go when they like. Looks like its the result of a serious consultation with the whole church, and is an interesting way of trying to be 'all together in one place' whilst catering for a variety of musical tastes, learning styles, and stages of faith.

I like the church tagline 'to live ordinary lives, gloriously'. I also like the quantities of coffee! Following some of the discussion about men in church a few days ago, I also note that you can be in this church for a 1 1/2 hr block on Sunday and not have to sing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Well worth a look

Following up a footnote, I had a peek at which is a collection of emerging church/fresh expressions resources put together by Richard Seel. Richard used to work for the BBC and is now a minister in Norfolk, involved in cafe church and training.

I thought the site merited a post all to itself, as it's got lots of helpful material:
1. Book notes: brief summaries and notes on a big range of books, covering things like alternative worship, cafe church, leadership, new monasticism, preaching, small groups. There's a paragraph or so on dozens and dozens of texts, enough to give a flavour of what it's about and whether it's worth looking at. (If you want a more meaty version of the same thing, Alison Morgans fantastic site has longer summaries of lots of key books on prayer, apologetics and ministry)

2. Video resources for worship: helpfully indexed by different parts of the service (welcome, confession, prayers etc.). Not such a big collection to be overwhelming, but plenty of good stuff.

3. C21st Church a course Richard teaches to lay leaders in the area, full teaching notes for 8 sessions covering culture, worship, preaching, spirituality, the Bible etc. Plenty of good material in this to mull over (or borrow!!!) If it came with powerpoints then Mission Shaped Intro would be up for some serious competition.

4. Some papers and reflection on Xpressions Cafe, the local 'fresh expression' which Richard is involved with, a cafe church in a rural setting which runs in 4 zones at the same time - cafe, families, exploring faith and a contemplative zone, allowing people to move in and out of the different zones all as part of the one event.

This is a really interesting approach instead of having 1 event and then trying to provide something else as a lead on (e.g a community cafe, then trying to encourage families along to Messy Church), it runs them all at the same time, in the same complex of buildings, so that people can base themselves in the cafe but explore the other zones at the same time. The latest Encounters on the Edge from George Lings has more about Xpressions Cafe, which is where I got the footnote from!

Another story about a similar kind of project tomorrow...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Is Vision a Bad Thing?

Tim Chesterton has an alternative take on the role of vision in church life:

'Where there is no vision, the people sigh with relief and get back to loving one another'.

Tim's been reading some provocative posts by David Hayward on vision, and why it's bad for the church. However, in one of those posts is the line: "What would it be like just to gather, worship, pray and teach the scripture, and love one another?" That, if I'm not mistaken, is a vision: a picture of the way things should be. Yes there is a danger in churches being dragged off course by one or two people having a strident 'vision' which everyone else has to conform to.

But if a whole church community can agree on their picture of the way things should be, on what they are working towards, then I can't see how that's a bad thing. Jesus is constantly setting before people a picture of things being different: the Beatitudes, the Lords Prayer, John 17, the parables etc. A church without an agreed vision is in danger of ending up going nowhere, or at the mercy of whoever prays the loudest. Like it or not, we all have a vision: a picture of how we think the church ought to be, a picture about which we are passionate. Ask people to describe their ideal church, or the most memorable act of worship they've taken part in, or the most enriching community they've been part of, and you're not often short of material.

Yes it's wrong to take business ideas wholesale and just drop them on a local church from a great height. But shying away from any shared picture of the kind of church you want to be, or the reason you exist in the first place, seems like deliberately closing your eyes when it would be better to open them.

PS comments on this may take a while to appear, as we have a church weekend on at the moment.

Friday, May 21, 2010

You learn a new thing every day

This is todays:

(in the late 19th century) many cities also lacked any infrastructure for leisure. Haphazard sporting pursuits that had been part of the fabric of many towns and villages for centuries began to be organised into proper sporting institutions with clear rules, organised leagues and a desire to divert young minds from drink, sex and destruction. The vicars, priests and ministers who helped pioneer these new sporting diversions were deeply averse to the idea of sport on Sunday. They also had a very distinct temperance agenda. With the advent of the 5½-day week, Saturday afternoon drunkenness was becoming a problem. The 3pm kick-off was partly a result of the desire of church leaders to keep men from spending an afternoon drinking their wages away.

Read the rest of 'Aston Villa and the Mission of God' , on the origins of the football league, and its connection with the local church. Yes I know the season's over. Back to the cricket....

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My Generation

Here's the line up of current and potential party leaders, at time of writing

David Cameron (born 1966)
Nick Clegg (born 1967)

Labour contenders
David Miliband (born 1965)
Ed Miliband (born 1969)
Ed Balls (born 1967)
John McDonnell (born 1951)
as yet undeclared Andy Burnham (born 1970) (Update: now declared)
Update: Diane Abbott (born 1953) has entered the fray in a welcome burst of diversity. Actually, not that diverse - she's Oxbridge too. What are the chances that Michael Portillo is one of the 10,000+ new Labour members and planning to stand as well?

With two exceptions, Generation X have well and truly taken over. The original writeup of Generation X was a bunch of nihilists, destined to live forever off the scraps their baby boomer parents had left them - McJobs, shopping, marketing, and the absence of any kind of big idea or cause to fight for. Sounds fine if you're 22 and trying to work off your student debt in the early 90's, not quite so clear if you're 43 and Prime Minister in 2010.

So if Generation X is supplanting the baby boomers, what is my generation like? Beyond a taste (not universally shared) for stadium rock, curry, irony and Have I Got News for You, is there anything else? I found this piece by Patrick Neate very interesting, an attempt to redefine Generation X based on the following characteristics:

- Magpie Tendencies, cherry picking from all sorts of sources, eclectic.

- Enterprising "Faced with new and difficult career circumstances but armed with new and difficult tools, we adapted"

- Instinctive Relativists: "We didn't believe in global communism, but that doesn't make us advocates of global capitalism. We may not believe in God or institutions but that's missing the point; because we don't believe in the absence of God or institutions either. We don't even believe in immutable knowledge. We prefer Wikipedia - a limitless, editable source that's as fallible as its contributors"

- Natural Pluralists - "it's simply not true that we don't believe in right and wrong; rather that we're often not sure what they are. We are governed by uncertainty and, admittedly, this is a dangerous position. But, in the contemporary world, it's still better than many. As a general principle, it must be worse to think you're right and be wrong (ask Tony "Boomer" Blair) than to admit that you're just not sure"

- Mod Cons (moderate conservatives)

- Comfort Junkies "Our Mod Con tendencies will never get in the way of our mod cons and our pluralism will never outgun our desire for comfort. It is the one thing about which we're never relative. And this scares even me."

he concludes (note - this was written a couple of years ago. It also reflects a thoroughly middle class flavour to Gen X, maybe cultural analysts are only bothered about people in their own social grade):
"As Generation X reaches middle age and inevitably takes charge, it's possible to envisage dithering direction guided only by the side its bread (wholemeal, stone ground, from the deli) is buttered (spreadable, Danish, unsalted). But it's also possible to imagine humane and pragmatic leadership that's adaptable to the new challenges it will undoubtedly confront. I would finally suggest that the way this particular cookie will crumble comes down less to the characteristics of the generation than the generation's recognition of the two prime characteristics of its era: unprecedented prosperity and (at least local) peace. We have been very, very lucky."

I recognise a lot of this, though some of it overlaps with Generation Y - todays 20-somethings are much more natural pluralists than the 40-somethings. But it's been a while since I heard/read a decent analysis of the post-boomer generation, and now they/we are in charge, perhaps it's time to find out a bit more. Anyone got any good thoughts/links?

DK (born 1969)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Next Stop Yarls Wood

The new Immigration Minister Damien Green has just announced the end to child detention at a centre in Scotland.

However the article goes on to say
From now on, families detained north of the Border may be sent to Dungavel to undergo initial health and welfare screening but would then be moved to Yarl’s Wood, in Bedfordshire, which has specialist family and child facilities and support services. The Pakistani family - Sehar Shebaz, and her baby daughter - whose incarceration hastened the development were due to be transferred today from Dungavel to Yarl’s Wood

This isn't good enough. Child detention at Yarls Wood must stop as well.