Monday, April 30, 2012

Mental Health and Politics

Total Politics have started a week of blogging on Mental Health and Politics, which I'll be following avidly.

This week, the Total Politics blog will be publishing a whole range of articles addressing the issue of mental health in politics. In the course of a year, one in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem, yet in the political arena, the issue is discussed relatively little. I wanted to do something to change that.

The stigma attached to admitting to a mental health problem - depression or anxiety are the most common ones - is great at the best of times, but for those who work in the high pressure environment of professional politics, it can be insurmountable. At the same time, we look to our politicians for leadership on improving things for those who suffer from these problems. When it comes to something like entrepreneurship, we value legislative contributions from MPs with direct experience of setting up their own businesses, but would we feel the same if a politician cited their own struggle with depression as the inspiration for a new scheme or law? Or would we question their fitness to continue in their job? We can only wonder.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

How To Select the New Archbishop of Canterbury

In recent history, every new AB of C has presided over a shrinking Church of England, so maybe it's time for a more creative selection system. Some alternatives:

Crown Disappointments Commission: works by process of elimination, removing every bishop who was sniffy about Charles marrying Camilla, did a boring sermon at a royal occasion, or made offhand remarks about the Royals on social media.

Just a Misquote: Each candidate has to give an interview to Ruth Gledhill without providing anything that can be turned into a front-page Times headline on a church split.

Hunger Games Style: Each Diocese offers two 'tributes' (known as the Diocesan and the Suffragan), who fight it out in a sealed arena, a gigantic booby-trapped theological library. The one who defeats all the others in theological argument is the winner. Part way through, just to spice it up, several rogue Deans and retired Bishops are released into the arena to take pot-shots at the contestants.

Episcopal Wipeout: can the brave competitors get across the Tippy Tables of Human Sexuality, making statements of support for marriage without fully endorsing a particular opinion? Watch them as they juggle the Big Red Balls of Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience and try not to drop one. Gasp as they face the Sweeper, trying to stand their ground in the face of repeated swipes from lobby groups.

Bishops Got Talent: each candidate has to preach to the BGT panel. The red button is hit for bad jokes, churchy jargon, generalisations, or when the judge falls asleep and slumps forward onto their desk.

Pardoners Question Time: Decide which is the most unforgivable sin: blessing gay marriage, not blessing gay marriage, changing authorised liturgy or recieving communion from a woman. As this is a radio show, it's not clear whether the sound in the background is applause or people slapping their foreheads.

Pagans Den: each candidate is locked into a Glastonbury pub for an overnight session, the one to emerge with the most converts wins. In the absence of converts, gift-aided donations to the Cathedral maintenance fund will be used as a tie-breaker.

Bish Brother: all the bishops are locked into Church House and voted out over several weeks by the rest of the Anglican Communion. This one has been shelved in the face of concerns that, without the bishops around, the CofE would actually get on fine, and not want to let the bishops out at all.

British Parliamentary Democracy: "I say Jeremy, just text Rupert and see which one he thinks we should appoint."

I'm sure the new chap in charge of choosing Rowans successor will value this contribution.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Sweep

Some inspired speech-bubble theology at Madpriest

God and Politics on the shrinking Big Society, and why the church bucks the trend.

Connected to this, there are an increasing number of local studies on the contribution of faith groups to their communities. 'Faithnet Southwest' co-ordinates our local ones, and findings on North Somerset and Bristol are available, one of the rest of Somerset has just been published. More on that next week, if I get the chance to read it in detail.

The Beaker Folk visit Mornington Crescent

In this Depression Awareness Week, numpty corner is hosted by eChurch blog, via Channel 4.

I normally can't be bothered keeping up with all the politicking about the future of the Anglican church, but have suggested in that cauldron of in-depth theology, Twitter, that the ABofC's job should be split in 2, one to run the global Communion (if that's possible) and one to lead the CofE in mission. It looks like GAFCON like the idea. If you don't know who GAFCON are, don't worry. Or read this, and worry a great deal.

And Richard Franks blog in general, if you've not already had a nose around it.

word of the week: if a congregation can’t afford to repair or improve its cathedral (or church?), then it should leave it and build a new one, perhaps from cardboard, which would probably meet its needs more economically. Or if the cathedral is really of sufficient historic interest, its administrators should be able to raise the funds for its upkeep from other sources, such as charging tourists for admission. If, however, the historic interest is largely in the mind of the Victorian Society, then they should be responsible for the cost of preserving the all too abundant heritage of their favoured period. (Peter Kirk)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Holy Water Bucket: Beat the Drought for £289

A church supplies catalogue landed on my mat the other day, and in an idle moment I was flicking through it. £1200 for a book case, £950 for a small silver chalice. Which church, I asked myself, would think it worth spending these quantities of money on those items?

Most striking of all was the 'Holy Water Bucket', pictured here. Now I'm sure holy water does lose it's holiness if kept in, for example, a mixing bowl, or a rinsed out drinks bottle. Far better to enhance said holiness, and put the fear of the Almighty into any unclean spirits present, by having a shiny, gilded vat of the stuff. God, as we know, much prefers gold and riches to poverty and humility, no matter what Indiana Jones may say.

I'd be really interested to know if any readers have been involved in a church which has decided to spend its money in this way. I really can't get my head around it.

Update: as if by magic a Kevin Mayhew promotional email arrived today. Staff Pick of the Week was to spend the best part of £1000 on the stations of the cross. I'm sure Jesus would be delighted.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Depression Awareness Week.

Doing the rounds on Facebook - "Hard to explain to someone who has no clue. Or doesn't believe you. It's a daily struggle being in pain or feeling sick on the inside while you look fine on the outside. Please put this as your status for at least 1 hour if you or someone you know has an invisible mental illness (Anxiety, Bipolar, Depression, Schizophrenia etc ) Never judge what you don't understand."

It's Depression Awareness Week. what is depression? It's not just feeling down -

The word 'depression' is used to describe everyday feelings of low mood which can affect us all from time to time. Feeling sad or fed up is a normal reaction to experiences that are upsetting, stressful or difficult; those feelings will usually pass.

If you are affected by depression, you are not 'just' sad or upset. You have an illness which means that intense feeling of persistent sadness, helplessness and hopelessness are accompanied by physical effects such as sleeplessness, a loss of energy, or physical aches and pains.

Sometimes people may not realise how depressed they are, especially if they have been feeling the same for a long time, if they have been trying to cope with their depression by keeping themselves busy, or if their depressive symptoms are more physical than emotional.

Here is a list of the most common symptoms of depression. As a general rule, if you have experienced four or more of these symptoms, for most of the day nearly every day, for over two weeks, then you should seek help.

◦Tiredness and loss of energy

◦Persistent sadness

◦Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem

◦Difficulty concentrating

◦Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting

◦Undue feelings of guilt or worthlessness

◦Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness

◦Sleeping problems - difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual

◦Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends

◦Finding it hard to function at work/college/school

◦Loss of appetite

◦Loss of sex drive and/ or sexual problems

◦Physical aches and pains

◦Thinking about suicide and death


more here.

A Resource for Spiritual and Pastoral Care is a superb free online resource with lots of helpful stuff in it - templates for training and awareness at a local level, resources for worship, fact sheets on mental health conditions, list and descriptions of resource organisations etc. Every church should have someone who has read and engaged with this document.

And see this, on questions asked by Christians about mental health.

Update: by the way, just because one 'evangelical Christian' thinks this, doesn't mean we all do.

Persecution of Christians in Syria

Open Doors have launched an appeal to help persecuted Christians in Syria, with reports of Muslim extremists turning on Christians, many being forced from their homes, tortured, kidnapped, or worse.

More details of what's going on, why, and what can be done about it, at God and Politics.

Here's another recent report:
Nearly 100,000 Christians so far have fled from Homs and other cities being targeted by government forces, but it is no longer just to escape the crossfire. Now, more reports are revealing that a new wave of persecution is deliberate and growing. As a result, Virginia-based Christian Aid Mission is sending additional aid to help the growing numbers of refugees which have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

"It is over; we can't get back what we lost," said one discouraged Christian refugee here in Jordan. "It will never be the same anymore for me or my family. We've lost hope." He said he had to flee with his family at night, because anti-Christian persecution in Syria is becoming a steadily growing reality.

"I had my own business. I ran a supermarket, and we were financially stable. Unfortunately, that's not the case anymore. Our dreams vanished when a group of terrorists threatened to kill my family, burn our house, and set fire to the supermarket if I didn't pay them $7,000.

"I paid the amount, hoping that they would leave us alone, but they did not. Instead, they kidnapped me for a whole week. They only let me go on one condition: that each month I would pay them the same amount.

"What do you think I could do? I fled. I packed our stuff, taking only the basics. I took my family and came to Jordan. My son, Omar, has one year left to finish his bachelor's degree, but now his dreams have vanished as well. I used to be a business owner...but now I am a laborer who can hardly provide the day-to-day basics for my family."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Street Pastors, Crime and Community

We hosted a Street Pastors commissioning at the weekend, 6 new SP's for Yeovil, and more prayer pastors too. We had reps from the local police and council there, reinforcing the partnership model that Street Pastors works with. There's now over 300 Street Pastor projects around the country, with over 9000 volunteers in action.

A couple of things struck me on the night:

1. A local police inspector told us that crime in the town centre had fallen 27% since the Street Pastors had started work. That's brilliant. It's partly through the Street Pastors heading off incidents (picking up glass which could be used as weapons, keeping lairy gangs away from each other), and partly through SP's dealing with low-level stuff, thus freeing up the police to do their job more effectively.

2. The deputy mayor gave the main address, which included this conclusion:
For the New Pastors…
The role is not about preaching heaven and hell, but one of listening - caring and helping - working in an unconditional and practical way, engaging with all people no matter Who or What they are.

For the Church…
God is challenging the Church to be a powerful catalyst for social action and Street Pastors are helping the Church to do just that. It is a must for church leaders and believers to reach their communities with a message of love and hope.

I'm mulling on that last bit, how to mobilise the whole church to be agents of change and hope in our communities. We had a few examples of that to show to our 2 local bishops, who visited last week, but there's still a sense that we're just scratching the surface.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cardboard Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral in New Zealand, damaged beyond repair in the recent earthquake, is being replaced by a temporary structure made partly of cardboard. The new building will cost only $4m NZ dollars, which is roughly £2m. It will seat 700+ people and can be built in 3 months.

Cardboard is an ideal building material because it’s readily available, recyclable and surprisingly strong. “The strength of the building has nothing to do with the strength of the material,” says Shigeru Ban (the architect). “Even concrete buildings can be destroyed by earthquakes very easily. But paper buildings cannot be destroyed by earthquakes.” It’s also consistently low-cost. Normally after disasters the price of building materials goes higher, but since this is not a traditional building material, it’s very easy to get,” he says. Ban’s temporary buildings are weatherproof, fire resistant and secure, and have lasted for upwards of 20 years. They can be transported easily and deconstructed and recycled when their working life is over. If the Christchurch 'Cardboard Cathedral proceeds, the cardboard tubes will be locally produced.

more pics here. Bit late on this, as it was in the papers last week, but as an Anglican I see it as my duty to be slightly late on social trends. Can't help but feel it might get uncomfortably soggy if they built one in the UK, but I'm sure they've thought of that.

South Somerset Local Plan - not pleasing all the people all the time

Update: according to Jon Gleeson's tweets, the proposed 'urban extension' to the S of Yeovil has been approved, along with the housing targets for the next 15 years.

This morning I've been at the Gateway in Yeovil for the main South Somerset Council meeting over their local plan, which takes Yeovil and South Somerset through to 2028. Nearly all the morning was taken up with contributions from the public, and the agenda stated that, should the meeting still be going at 9.30pm (from a 10am start) it would then be adjourned until the following day.

It's going to be impossible to please everyone. The main bone of contention is an attempt to plan for jobs and housing growth in the district. Disperse that growth too widely, and there isn't enough money generated by housing growth to pay for extra community facilities where the growth happens. Clump it together, and people nearby complain about the effect on their community. South Somerset council has taken the latter option, with plans for a 2500 home 'eco town' to the South of Yeovil. The development will include primary and secondary schools, local shops and businesses, and even the possibility of land for 'faith facilities'.

Most of this morning was spent hearing arguments from residents of East Coker and Barwick, near the proposed site, on why the housing should either be a) somewhere else or b) more widely dispersed. Or, on the other side, residents from the N and W of Yeovil (Montacute, Tintinhull, Chilthorne Domer, Stoke) on why (as the 2nd preference for the eco town) the council was making the right decision in preferring the E Coker option.

There's no way to do this in a way which keeps everyone happy. The danger is that the residents of the new housing are the ones who lose out, either because the housing is crammed in to reduce the impact (50 dwellings per hectare is the standard now, it wasn't long ago it was 30. Don't expect any gardens in these new estates), or the numbers are whittled down, reducing the money available to pay for community infrastructure.

Either way, I was glad I wasn't on the council. Glad also that I wasn't a tree, looking at the piles of paperwork on the tables. But now praying for the wisdom of Solomon for the 60 people who's job it is to make this decision.

 BBC people were interviewing folk during the interval this morning, and an ITV van was parking up as I left.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Capitalism 2 Sport/Free Speech/Democracy 0

Here are the Olympic Rings.

I wonder what would happen if I put them into my blog title bar, or changed my Twitter avatar to a picture of the rings. A spell in prison looks like a possibility, with some draconian brand protection going on around the Ol****cs.

Meanwhile the engine noise at Formula One drowns out the sounds of protest and death in Bahrain, because it wouldn't do to let the sponsors down. Do Formula 1 and its bosses care? Do the drivers have a conscience, and how much contractual freedom do they have to exercise it?

Though at time of writing, there may still be time for Jeremy Clarkson and the boys to break into the pit lane and paint 'Free Bahrain' on the side of all the cars. Or for all the drivers to don 'Pray4Bahrain' t-shirts, to be unveiled at the podium ceremony. It's maybe a bit much to make parallels with the Hunger Games, but is it possible to win in such a way as to make a statement about the parameters of the competition?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Should the Media be the Medium? How the CofE Talks to Itself

A couple of recent instances:
 - a letter to the Times by various senior clergy calling for the church's understanding of marriage to change to include same-sex couples.
 - a front page in our local paper a few weeks ago, which then was picked up by several national papers, on a dispute in the local church.

A question:
 - is the media, local or national, the place to have our debates within the Church of England?

In the local case, I don't get the sense that there was an attempt to stimulate debate, and the way it was reported was very adversarial. All the piece did was made any possibility of resolution impossible, whilst inflicting a large amount of strain and anguish on the parish concerned. In the national case, given that the House of Bishops is having another look at its position on sexuality, where do these debates happen - on the floor of Synod, via the letter pages of secular newspapers, or face to face?

I'm aware of the irony of asking this question on a blog which, at times, has tried to engage in debates about the CofE via the blogosphere rather than via the institutions the church has for discussions and governance.

My strongest thought is this: the media should be neither the first port of call, nor the last. It shouldn't be the first place we go with an opinion, we should be able to talk to each other first. And it shouldn't be the last place we go, because we've lost the argument and we want to go down with as much noise and collateral damage as possible.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scouts still keeping their promise to God

The National Secular Society has turned its attention away from setting legal precedents with small district councils, and is now trying to undermine the foundations of the world Scouting movement. Unhappy with a promise that invokes God, and unwilling (it seems) to set up an atheist alternative...

the NSS has now written to Mr Grylls, urging him to support the introduction of a secular version of the scout promise. They say that, unless this happens, atheist children will be excluded or will have to lie in order to join the organisation.

The NSS were unable to provide an exact figure for the number of complaints they have received.

The Scout Association told the BBC that the scout promise is an integral part of the worldwide scouting movement.As a membership organisation, they say they are entitled to set certain criteria for joining.

Spokesman Simon Carter said the association was aware of the views of the NSS but did not intend to change the wording of the promise: "We will continue to offer adventure and development opportunities to our membership of over 500,000 adults and young people which is steadily growing”

full story here. I'm not surprised the NSS can't provide any stats, their membership has been a thing of mystery for as many years as anyone can remember, despite repeated calls for them to publish the figures.

VAT on Church Buildings: The Bargaining Position

With growing opposition to George Osbornes imposition of VAT on church repairs, (petition here), here are some face-saving alternatives for a government climb-down.

1. Church acceptance of the VAT hike, in return for the outlawing of the Victorian Society, and any other heritage society which sees the church building primarily as a period piece museum rather than a house for a living worshipping community.

2. Church backing for the proposal, as long as VAT is also levied on ice cream, frozen peas, and food products that have to be sold below ambient room temperature. After all, most churches are below ambient room temperature as well.

3. Church backing for the proposal, in return for the government assuming full legal liability for any injury or death caused to people by bits falling off church buildings due to a shortfall in the maintenance budget.

4.  Keeping zero rated VAT on repairs, but applying VAT instead to uncomfortable pews, copies of the 1928 prayer book, singing of 'Jerusalem' or 'I Vow to Thee My Country', and surplus members of the House of Lords. This will raise the same amount in the short term, as well as providing a financial incentive for the church to clear out a few bits of dead wood. Literally, in some cases.

5. On the 'no taxation without representation' principle, scrap the tax hike but instead introduce an annual levy on the Church of England based on its level of representation in the House of Lords, multiplied by the absenteeism rate of the representatives themselves. Again, this would incentivise change: a current coefficient of 26 x 95 is much less affordable than, say, one of 6x50. Or, mimicing Conservative party practice, the CofE could auction off the 26 places in the Lords at £250k a throw and pay corporation tax on the proceeds.

6. Instead of a VAT increase, levy a 'Tat Tax' on Cathedral merchandise. This will raise much more money, mostly from tourists and foreigners, as well as discouraging Cathedrals from selling large quantities of fudge, teatowels and stick-on stained glass imitation plastic.

7. Only levy the VAT increase on those places of worship which charge for entry.

8. A freeze on any progress in the governments move to replace local council education departments with the CofE (among others) until the increase is reversed.

there, I'm sure most of those make economic sense. By this time tomorrow Vince Cable will be proposing one of them on Newsnight. Watch this space.....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blogging about mental illness

The last post quoting Alastair Campbell prompted this from the excellent echurch blog.

I know that I’ve touched on this issue before, but I need to get this off my chest. I have found it difficult to talk openly about this recently, because of the pernicious tactic of using my mental health issues against me

As a society we've gone from stigmatising homosexuals to celebrating them in the course of a generation. So I'm hopeful that we can do the same for people with mental illness, of whom there are far more. I was massively encouraged at a meeting in Yeovil College earlier today to discover that roughly 100 staff are (in pretty pressured jobs) voluntarily doing extra training modules on mental health issues. Now wondering about how we do something similar in local churches.

Alastair Campbell: Not Doing God

My partner Fiona is forever asking, "Why can't you just be happy?'". But it's not that simple. In my little e-book The Happy Depressive - that's me - I advance a rather dark theory. It is that we don't really know if we've lived a happy life until we near its end.

Perhaps that's a non-believer's way of trying to stick to values that keep us broadly on the straight and narrow.

Which brings us to God. Now there's an area riddled with doubt. I was raised to believe, but soon gave it up. It flickers now and then, like when my friend Philip Gould died recently, aged just 61, and I saw the faith resonating from him, and comforting him, and in what he called "the death zone" giving him an equilibrium he lacked for much of his life.

But then my rational mind kicks in. "Where there is doubt, there is no doubt." This time, the doubt turned me against the proposition, not for it - although, as Philip used to tease, the door is never closed.

Believers in my family are convinced I will "do God" before I go. Tony Blair always said he was sure I was deeply religious deep down, but worried I might become an Islamic fundamentalist.

Full piece here, also reproduced on Campbells blog.
There's a fleeting reference to Philip Gould's faith in this Guardian interview from last year.

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to train a flea/Anglican/insert as applicable

Saw this on a recent training day on the excellent Mentoring Matters, run by CPAS's James Lawrence. It made me wonder what my jar looks like, or whether there are several:
 - male
 - middle class
 - Christian
 - vicar
 - middle aged
plus the jar of my head (what I expect of myself) my body (what I'm actually capable of) my community (what others expect of me/will let me do/not get too upset about), my denomination, my habits, etc.

All of which puts me in mind of one of my favourite quotes:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cathedral Attendance Levels: A Question

A continued steady rise in Cathedral attendance was noted a couple of weeks ago on by the CofE, which generated some number crunching of Biblical proportions by Peter Ould.

Just 1 question: I'd like to see a comparison between those cathedrals which didn't charge for entry over the period, compared to those who did. Is there, for example, any connection between rising midweek attendance at services, and the fact that the only way to get into many cathedrals for free midweek is to, you guessed it, attend a service?

More telling would be if there was a significant increase in adult baptisms, confirmations from cathedral congregations, or people entering recognised forms of CofE ministry. On the figures, the number of baptisms of those aged over 12 has risen from 120 to 160 over the last decade, i.e. from roughly 3 per cathedral per year to roughly 4. That's good, and to be celebrated, but is what you'd hope for from a parish church which was doing reasonably well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ebuzzing/Wikio top blogs for March

We have a new no.1, congrats to Krish Kandiah from the Evangelical Alliance. Here's the top 15, plus a few interesting ones from lower down the list:

1. Krish Kandiah
2. The Freethinker
3. Thinking Anglicans, which has kept a running commentary on CofE votes on the Anglican Covenant. Non CofE folks, don't worry, looks like you didn't miss anything by not knowing about it.
4. Islam in Europe
5. Peter Saunders at the interface between Christianity and medicine. Worth a look, if you haven't already.
6. Echurch blog
7. Comprehensive Unity: the No Anglican Covenant Blog (not sure how comprehensive unity in the CofE can involve being against something being proposed by people within the CofE, but there you go. The winners write the history)
8. IBenedictines
9. The BIGBible Project
10. Nick Baines outside contender for AB of C and Radio Times contributor.
11. The Ugley Vicar
12. The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley
13. A non-blog which cuts and pastes from other sites in full without seeking permission and doesn't allow comments. If this is mainstream Anglicanism then call me a Baptist.
14. Vicky Beeching of the remarkable hair and great voice, probably leading worship at Spring Harvest as I write this.
15. The hermeneutic of continuity an even more obscure title than I used to have for this one.

also worth a peep
19 Peter Ould one of the architects of the Twurch of England, an even more avid statistician than I am, and always a good read.
21 Dreaming Beneath the Spires always good to find another fan of Jesus of Montreal
26 LLM Calling. Prolific is not the word - nearly 600 posts so far this year. And I'm always happy to promote people who want to put mental health on the agenda
37 Lay Anglicana a really nice blog to look at. And read.
43 Dean Roberts never looked at this one before, but a good blog, well presented, lots of book reviews.
47 God and Politics this will be top 5 by the end of the year if Gillan keeps going at this level. Great blog, in a niche recently left too much to Cranmer by Christian bloggers
60 Cookies Days one of my favourites at the moment, really thought provoking, lots of great links, and a massive passion for mission.

that'll do for now. And I'm pleased they've finally caught up with my change of name.

oops, suppose I'd better include the link to the site itself!!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

What Sun Readers believe about Prayer and Easter

Fascinating survey for the Sun today on what Britons belive about Easter, prayer, wearing crosses at work, school assemblies etc. 31% of those surveyed belive that prayer works, another 24% are 'not sure'. Roughly 20% pray several times a week or more.

At the same time 75% go to church once a year at best. So a model of outreach based on getting people into church has got some serious limitations.

To take your mind off all that, you could listen to my contribution to BBC local radio here in Somerset, starts about 20 minutes in. Yes, I know I talk fast and say 'um' a lot.

For the Cross

Friday, April 06, 2012

Radio Somerset interview

I've foolishly agreed to be interviewed on BBC local radio this Saturday, with Emma Britton from Radio Somerset. I see last week she had a couple of local MPs, one of which I was at university with - small world.

So, if you've nothing better to do, or want to hear me make an idiot of myself..... Alternatively, please pray for me! Feeling increasingly nervous the closer it gets....

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Easter Linebacker. Because it's not about the Bunny.


The Listed Buildings VAT Protest Song

This very clever song/vid has just gone up on the CofE website, linked to the online petition against George Osbornes hike in VAT on listed buildings. Work o nWakefield Cathedral has had to be stopped because the new VAT rules have raised the bill by £200,000.

Memo to the government: either reverse the VAT change, or relax the planning rules so that churches have more of a free hand to do what they need to do with ancient buildings, rather than being held hostage by heritage societies and listed status.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

David Cameron is Praying for You

David Camerons Easter message.

“Easter week is a very important moment in the Christian calendar, so I would like to extend my best wishes to everyone here in the United Kingdom, and across the world, at this special time of year.

“This is the time when, as Christians, we remember the life, sacrifice and living legacy of Christ. The New Testament tells us so much about the character of Jesus; a man of incomparable compassion, generosity, grace, humility and love. These are the values that Jesus embraced, and I believe these are values people of any faith, or no faith, can also share in, and admire.

“It is values like these that make our country what it is – a place which is tolerant, generous and caring. A nation which has an established faith, that together is most content when we are defined by what we are for, rather than defined by what we are against. In the book of Luke, we are told that Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” – advice that when followed makes for a happier, and better society for everyone.

“So as families and friends get together this week, I would like to send my best wishes to you all, and I hope and pray you have a very happy and peaceful Easter.”

Thanks Dave, we're praying for you too. This comes alongside a reception for Christian reps at 10 Downing Street, reported from various angles by the Telegraph (gay marriage), Guardian (the ghost of Alastair Campbell) and Rupert Murdochs Panzer Division (fuel prices). God and Politics has the full text of Cameron's speech at this event, and it's a fascinating read.

For the moment, I'll resist the temptation to dissect the theology, and be pleased that a PM is unashamedly celebrating Easter, in his own inclusive multiculturally-sensisitve way. Though I hope that in private DC gets that Jesus is not merely a living legacy, he's a living person.

Easter Preaching tip

Easter is not a time to get fancy. The goal of the Easter sermon is not to impress people with your oratory skills, your Greek syntax expertise, or your clever cultural insight. Easter is a time to boldly, loudly, passionately, gladly, and publicly proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

So, keep your Easter sermon simple. Hearing the good news of Jesus is something your people will delight in if the Holy Spirit resides in them, so make it plain. They know you will tell them Jesus is alive, they are coming to hear it, and it sounds good every time, much like a wife whose husband often tells her he loves her and is devoted to her—she never tires of hearing it and rejoices every time.

(Mark Driscoll)

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Is it Possible to Preach about Maundy Thursday?

The more I think about doing a sermon on Jesus washing the disciples feet, the more obvious it becomes that a simple sermon won't do to recreate the impact or the meaning of what Jesus did.

After all, if Jesus had merely spoken for 20 minutes about mutual service, it would have just got noted down alongside all the rest of his teaching. But the sheer discomfort of the disciples, the dramatic role reversal of master becoming servant, the sheer grace (though nobody has washed his feet, Jesus the divine Word is washing theirs), the best way to recreate all of that is to do it.

which applies to blogging about it too.

Easter in TV Babylon

Following on from last time, here's the TV feast that is Easter weekend:

Easter Saturday
Easter from Kings (BBC2). This may tick some people's boxes, but in terms of TV the packaging is very National Trust - historic setting, historic music, historic bible version etc. Kings is top quality art, architecture, music and literature that the Christian faith inspires within a particular cultural setting, and for some it will inspire. For others, it will look like an attempt to keep that disturbing stuff about resurrection and God's Kingdom firmly locked in the past/high culture where it can't harm us. If that's you, try the Preston Passion (see Good Friday).

and that's it, unless you count 'Two Mules for Sister Sarah', a western with Clint Eastwood and a nun. Otherwise its sport, shows with Simon Cowell and shows with the ghost of Simon Cowell, family films, and mammon (national lottery, million pound drop, Flog It! etc.). Though a couple of hours channel hopping on Saturday night is probably enough to convince most people of our need for a saviour.

Easter Sunday
10am Easter Eucharist, BBC1, followed by the Pope's Easter message
5.25pm Songs of Praise
10pm 'Crucifixion' a C4 documentary about a man trying to construct a crucifix from donated body parts. Hey, it's channel 4.

and that's pretty much it, though there's plenty of stuff about death and betrayal if you're still stuck a bit earlier in Holy Week (Silent Witness, Titanic, Homeland). Interesting to see the 12-rated The Mummy on at 3.45pm. It's been moving 30 minutes forward in the schedules every year since its release. Don't let your kids near the zapper on Sunday afternoon if you want them to sleep.

Best bet - dig out the DVD of the BBC's Passion from a couple of years ago and watch them again. Or just follow the narrative in real time by reading the Bible.

Or if you can't read more than one sentence at a time, the Facebook Passion.