Thursday, May 31, 2012

Guidelines for Social Networking

One of the issues of managing your own time is that there aren't 'company' policies or procedures to guide/police what I do. Particularly with blogging and tweeting, I struggle to work out the optimum amount of time, usually swinging between too much and none at all.

Tim Chester has produced some guidlines for use of social media. Some of them are about time use, some of them are about character and values:

Twelve Guidelines for Social Networking

1. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say were the people concerned in the room.

2. Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t share publicly with your Christian community.

3. Ensure your online world is visible to your offline Christian community.

4. Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self reflects a self-created identity rather than identity in Christ.

5. Challenge one another if you think someone’s online self doesn’t match their offline self.

6. Use social networking to enhance real world relationship not to replace them.

7. Don’t let children have unsupervised internet access or accept as online friends people you don’t know offline.

8. Set limits to the time you spend online and ask someone to hold you accountable to these.

9. Set aside a day a week as a technology “Sabbath” or “fast”.

10. Avoid alerts (emails, tweets, texts and so on) that interrupt other activities especially reading, praying, worshipping and relating.

11. Ban mobiles from the meal table and the bedroom.

12. Look for opportunities to replace disembodied (online or phone) communication with embodied (face-to-face) communication.

what do you think? Is there anything else you'd add? Is there another set of guidelines you use?

PhD in Messy Church

I kid you not.

This project will examine a rapidly-growing phenomenon called 'Messy Church', that is part of the wider movement called 'Fresh Expressions' within the Church of England. The aim is to explore the how Messy Church operates, how it is understood by those who run it, who it attracts, and how it can be understood theologically in terms of accepted models of ecclesiology.....

...Messy Church is an idea conceived by Lucy Moore in 2004 as a way of enabling the church to reach young people and their families more effectively. Children and their parents meet once or twice a month to engage in various creative activities, which often get rather messy… hence the name. There is usually a time of worship and some teaching about the Christian faith. It has grown rapidly, and is now run as part of the Bible Reading Fellowship ministries with over 800 churches registered in the UK alone (see

and the key line: Messy Church is not new in what it does (it mirrors what many churches do during holiday clubs) but it does represent a sustained effort to change the way that ‘church is done’. It is not necessarily a way of bringing people into traditional church congregations, but sees itself rather as a way of re-defining what church is.

Full details here. Looks quite exciting, actually.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fiery Preaching

One of local vicars is a member of the Magic Circle, so it shouldn't surprise me that not far from here is another who breathes fire:

A fairly unforgettable way to mark Pentecost, nice little video clip here. The vicar Nick Davies comes across very well, and there seems to be a decent amount of media savvy here, with the local BBC cameras being present to film the service. Turns out he's not the only fire-breathing vicar.

Great way to present a good message. There are vicars all over Gloucestershire now learning how to gargle turps, and no that's not in preparation for General Synod.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jesus Christ, Masterchef

Considering he spent most of his working life in the building trade, Jesus seems to have turned out as a decent cook. I'm not sure his judgement of quantities was quite so good - perhaps that's why he needed people like Matthew and Judas around, with an eye for detail and cost.

Wedding at Cana - great wine, but late on in the feast, and far too much for the guests to get through.

Feeding of the 5000 - 'they all ate and were satisfied' and there were still 12 baskets of leftovers.

Breakfast by the lake in John 21 - Jesus cooks breakfast for the disciples, invites them to come and join him, but still needs 'some of the fish that you've caught'.

This cavalier attitude to food spills over into the parables: banquets are ordered and prepared before the guest list is fully known, fatted calves are slaughtered for waster relatives. And, like the Tiger Who Came to Tea, Jesus didn't have a problem inviting himself to people's houses for dinner (Zaccheus) or inviting the disciples to turn up with no food in strange places on his account and expect to be fed (Luke 10).

All completely irresponsible. Doesn't he know there's a recession on?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Abbey Manor Jubilee Big Lunch

What started out as a simple idea - have a shared church lunch for the Jubilee and invite your friends - is spiralling out of control a bit. Our local Big Lunch is becoming a rather large pile of things in the corner of my study - bunting, cutlery (red, white and blue), plates, flags, tablecloths etc.

Somewhere up the road, a kind helper is cutting out crown shapes from card, someone else is baking a cake, and Yeovil Ales are readying a couple of boxes of their special Jubilee Brew. St. James Community Choir are preparing for their first public gig, and we're hoping for a few dancers from a local ballet group as well.

On the flakier side, we have no idea how many people will come, what the weather will be like, and I'm in robust negotiations with Carling, who promised free beer to Big Lunch organisers but have turned down my bid for 105 bottles of ale.

For local folk who are interested, live details on the Abbey Manor Community page on Facebook, or the Abbey Manor Big Lunch for the Diamond Jubilee  event page. And if you're in the area this weekend, pop along to Abbey Manor Community centre from 12.15pm onwards, bring a bit of grub, and join in the feast!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Minions or Ministers: do we actually want more leaders in church?

A great post from Mike Breen on the difference between leaders and volunteers, and the leadership culture of the English-speaking church. Some snippets:

A volunteer is someone who executes someone else’s vision. A leader is someone with a vision of his or her own. In truth, there are often only a few leaders in the average church, and everyone else is simply executing their vision. It’s the “genius with a thousand helpers” paradigm Jim Collins uses to describe organizations that are good, but never become great. This is the leadership movement widely espoused in the church today....

....Why wouldn’t most pastors want more leaders in their church communities?

I think there are probably many answers to this question (don’t know how to train them, afraid of releasing and relinquishing some control, unsure how to manage resources against their person agenda, etc). But I suspect the big answer is this: At the end of the day, what most pastors want (and have been trained to want!) is minions to execute the most important vision of all. Their own. In doing this, they effectively kill people’s ability to get a vision of their own.

....Are our development programs about releasing leaders to the missional frontier? Or, more likely, are they about recruiting volunteers to keep the machine of the church running? To be sure, we should attend to the organization of the church, for it is a significant thing when the scattered church gathers. But as the Church stares precipitous decline in the face—as we look to re-embrace the missio Dei—we must learn again the art that Jesus exhibited: the task of multiplying missional leaders and releasing them into the cracks and crevices of society where there is little-to-no Gospel presence.

My emphasis. read the rest here. Then discuss at your next meeting with church 'leaders'.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

House of Bishops statement - links roundup and thoughts

The original statement from the CofE, on the House of Bishops 2 amendments to the legislation on women bishops. You might want to read this later, unless you have a PhD in law, theology and English grammar.

A translation of the statement into English by Unshaun Sheep.

Pete Broadbents explanation of what the amendments mean. He also chips in to this comments thread at Thinking Anglicans.

Bishop Alan offers some analysis and comment.

Nancy Wallace doesn't know what to make of it. I suspect she's not the only one.

Thinking Anglicans has the predictable responses from pressure groups Reform ('disappointed') and WATCH ('disappointed'). Forward in Faiths response is more positive and graciously worded, but still slips the 'd-word' in near the end.

Ancient Briton doesn't think much of the WATCH response, and Radical Disciple doesn't think much of Reforms'

Good post from James Ogley, who sees a legalised 'third province' emerging.

Telling Secrets reckons the Queen needs to have a word

Lay Anglicana thinks that a lot will depend, not on the legislation itself, but on the leadership of the next ABofC

Archdruid Eileen rounds up the press coverage, sort of.

update 1: Andrew Brown comment piece for the Guardian.

There's a blow by blow account of the debates within the CofE here, if you're a real anorak and not fed up with the whole thing already.

My thoughts:
1. When one persons discrimination is another persons theological integrity (or vice versa), we're clearly at an impasse. The choice is whether to make this a red line issue, or attempt to stay together. When we tolerated senior bishops who didn't believe in the risen Jesus (who knows, we may still have some), should we have split then? Should we split now? There is no way to express the views of both WATCH and Reform within a single church. So, do we have 2 separate churches, or try to accomodate? Which is more Christian?

2. My brief take on the amendments is that it's an updated version of Resolutions A&B and flying bishops, to accomodate conservative evangelicals. It provides an institutionalised way of rebelling against the 'liberal' leadership of the church - is this a clever CofE response to the sabre rattling from Southwark, or an impossible line to hold?

And by the way, talk of a 'stained glass ceiling' does the supporters of women bishops no good at all. Ordination is not a career, becoming a bishop is not 'promotion'. But if you want to talk about opportunities to serve, gifts to be used in the service of God's kingdom, and the building up of the church, then I'm all ears.

Update 2 (Sun pm): some more links. Archdeacon in the Dales argues that the CofE can't have it both ways, Church Mouse just wishes the powers that be would get on with it and doesn't think the Bishops amendments amount to a great deal. Thinking Anglicans rounds up a few more links. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes wonders what the long term effects will be, and whether 'pick your own episcopacy' will work.

Update 3:  perceptive post from John Richardson, in response to Miranda Threlfall-Homes piece, and the sabre-rattling from WATCH.

Update 4: Rachel Hartland and Seeker and Lay Anglicana all worth a look, WATCH aren't the only supporters of women bishops, and it looks as though their more strident response doesn't sum up everyone's position.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eurovision: and the winner is.....

And you thought Englebert was going to be the oldest thing on show at Eurovision. Buranovskiye Babushki, complete with mocassins and giant revolving kitchen stove in the background, look set to take the thing by storm.

I'm sure their victory in the Russian competition is everything to do with merit, and nothing to do with the fact that the one on the extreme left is Putins grandmother. Strong denials have been issued at a Russian threat to switch off the gas to any neighbouring country which gives them nul points.

Olympic Sponsors Parade, aka the Torch Relay

Went to the centre of Yeovil at crack of dawn today to watch the Olympic torch relay. First stop was bacon butties at the United Reformed Church, then we joined the growing crowds and waited.

After several local buses, an middle aged boy racer showing off his car, and various police bikes, came a parade of sponsors carnival floats, complete with freebies, logos and people trying to whip up the crowd into the nearest thing to excitement Yeovil can manage at 7.30am. Then, to the sound of church bells and local radio, came the flame itself, the thing we'd all come to see.

Arriving home, my inbox had a link to this piece by Jarrett, our local college chaplain. A local man has recently offered to sell advertising space on his body to support charities. Human billboard Chris Watson will have logos tattood onto his skin, in exhange for donations. Channel 4 have already spotted the story and are planning a documentary, which should boost the cash take considerably. Is this sacrificial giving, or the ultimate victory for marketing?

Jarrett writes of... the sheer volume and invasiveness of modern advertising. The places you can go without seeing advertising of any kind are rapidly depleting. Our recognition of company logos is an accepted norm in modern society. Students last week were showing me the highest downloaded free app on the iPhone: a Logos Quiz. Logos are displayed fully or partially, and you have to guess which company it is. Enough correct answers takes you to the next level where (yay!) more logos can be guessed.

The colonisation of the Olympics by branding and sponsorship (just watch Chariots of Fire, then compare and contrast with this: 14 logos and invitation to 'be part of it' by buying merchandise. Yes, if you haven't got £400 for the last remaining seats for the beach volleyball, you can always pretend you're there by shopping online.

Won't be long now.....

Build Up or Tear Down?

my heart's desire is to do the work of a Samuel, and change the structures in such a way that it becomes possible for the priests to do their job once again. Yet in my darker moments I wonder whether what is truly needed isn't a Samuel but a Samson - someone to pull down the pillars of establishment and leave nothing but rubble and dead bodies behind.

read the rest at Sam Nortons blog. The kind of post I'd love to write if I had the time and clarity of thought.

Update: this also ties in with a piece & comment thread on the Fresh Expressions site 'Anglicanism must die?' on what aspects of the CofE are we prepared to live without.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Doing good to feel better: Mental Health Awareness Week 21-27 May

It doesn't seem that long ago that it was depression awareness week, but this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Great to see the focus of the week this year:

Doing Good Does You Good: Research shows that doing good and helping others is good for your mental health.

As one of the five main ways to manage your wellbeing, we are asking everyone to get involved by carrying out acts of kindness for strangers throughout this year's Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 21 - 27 May. Carry out one act of kindness every day....

You could:
•Pass on a compliment
•Smile and say thank you
•Acts of kindness to friends or strangers
•Get involved in a cause that means a lot to you
•Volunteer your time

People are posting examples of their random acts of kindness on a Facebook page. It's actually really uplifting just reading what other people have done. A report from the Mental Health foundation, released to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, speaks of a widespread sense that people are becoming more selfish, and are less likely to go out of their way to help strangers.

There's a really good 'Pocket Guide to helping others' free to download, which is a great thing to have whether you've got mental health problems or not. Whatever you think about the Big Society, it would be great for something like this to become a national talking point.

Chariots of Fire resources

Chariots of Fire is back in the cinema in July, in time for the (warning, copyright violation ahead) Olymp*cs. Damaris are producing a suite of resources, video clips etc. for churches to use alongside it, like the one above. Good discussion starters, and a great movie. And hardly a sponsors logo on show. Those were the days.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dave's Deodorant

Compare and contrast: Exhibit A
Exhibit B

Is Dave already positioning himself for a job advertising Sure for Men, should political life go belly up? Barack seems less confident, arms firmly by the sides. He's obviously been to enough badly-toiletried blokey charismatic gatherings and learned his lesson.

Given the warming weather forecast, a salutory reminder to anyone booked on the New Wine leaders conference that they need to stock up on something powerful, as an act of love towards their neighbouring worshippers.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Olympic Torch Prayers

There's some 'official' prayers for the journey of the Olympic Torch, for those of you looking for an alternative to 'Let the Flame Burn Brighter' as a liturgical response to the arrival of the torch. Or you could just send everyone out to buy honeycomb flavoured ice cream. See, the subliminal marketing is working already...

Friday, May 18, 2012

How To Preach and Watch the Olympics at the Same Time

Hot on the heels of the Holy Water Bucket, another corker from Kevin Mayhew

Yes, with the Digital Lectern you can 'look at your notes' without ever losing pesky bits of paper on the floor, and catch the beach volleyball at the same time. Why spend a couple of hundred quid on a basic notebook when you can splash £1345 on a nice wooden stand with one built in? The portability is a bit tricky -  I'm not sure the other folk in the cafe will take too well to your 'laptop', and it's a bit bulky for carrying around. But hey, this is the reason why people in church sacrificially give, so that the preacher can have an autocue.

The marketing for this is that it gives 'hassle free, paperless services'. Though of course, it's always worth printing out your sermon in full, just in case the screen crashes.....

Own up folks, who's thinking to themselves, in the immortal words of Will Smith 'I have got to get me one of these!' ???

Thursday, May 17, 2012

VAT compromise on listed places of worship

The Government has agreed to a compromise arrangement on charging VAT for repairs to listed places of worship. The VAT reform is staying in place, but alongside it the government are adding £30m to a grants pot for repairs to listed places of worship, and ring-fencing the funding for the rest of the parliament. The pot had originally been cut to £7m, and will now be £42m. For comparison, £23m of VAT rebates had been given in 2010-11, so there is more than enough to make up for the costs.

Having said that, it does seem needlessly bureaucratic to levy the VAT, then administer a fund to route it back to listed places of worship in grant form. The arrangements are pretty explicit: From 1 October 2012 all claimants should receive a full payout on the equivalent of the VAT they have incurred on repairs and alterations to listed places of worship.Wouldn't it be easier, and more cost-effective, to abolish the fund and put an equivalent tax cut in its place?

Anyway, good news, and it shows that the government will listen if you lobby hard and well. Which is nice for each single issue, though the danger is that every policy becomes shaped by interest groups and lobbying, rather than a coherent central strategy, and the whole thing unravels.

Harry Potter Theology Conference, sort of

Update: here's the programme. Looks fascinating. Lots of seminars on death, myth and morality.

Hot on the heels of the Journal of U2 Studies, Harry Potter is the latest popular phenomenon to gain academic interest. A 2 day conference at St. Andrews University starts today, with 50 lectures covereing different aspects of the Potter saga:

Topics include the role of paganism, British national identity and how death is dealt with in the book series. An anthology based on the conference is planned for publication in 2013.

The conference has been organised by Prof John Patrick Pazdziora from the University's School of English and Father Micah Snell from the University's Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA).

The ITIA's aims are:

to advance and enrich an active conversation between Christian theology and the arts — bringing rigorous theological thinking to the arts, and bringing the resources of the arts to the enterprise of theology. As part of this, it seeks to explore the role of the imagination in the arts, as part of a wider theological interest in the imaginative aspects of our humanity.

So I'm guessing there'll be some theological lectures in amongst the 50, though the full programme isn't available online. More details from St. Andrews here.

In an intense series of almost 50 lectures over two days, experts on the series will discuss how they deal with death, the role of empathy and the influence of writers such as CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Other papers will deal with paganism, magic and the use of food and British National Identity.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall, though there's always the chance Hermione would spot me and trap me in a jar. There are strong Christian themes, amongst all the others, in the Potter series, and you couldn't really get a more overtly Easter finale than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Media Relations for Ministers 101/Grumbling

Another corker from Cake or Death. Reminded of it by yesterdays story on government plans to put a King James Bible into every school. I first read about it on the BBC site, but knew before I reached the relevant section that they'd have a quote from the National Secular Society opposing the project. So I left that link off and majored on some of the positive things being done in schools instead.

By 'coincidence', I skimmed the ABofC's 2011 Lent book yesterday, and was particularly struck by a chapter on 'Giving up Grumbling'. The automatic reaction of the media is to seek out the 'grumble' angle on any story. Conflict spices the story up a bit, but it also becomes almost impossible to celebrate anything with out a 'yes but.....' Living in that atmosphere isn't great for the soul.

CS Lewis put it like this"Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others... but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God "sending us" to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud. ”

The media as the outer circle of hell? Or am I grumbling?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

King James Bible for every school

Financed by giving from charities and philanthropists, the Department of Education is sending a copy of the King James Bible to every state primary and secondary school in England.

The DfE link above has several good links to everyone from Richard Coles to Richard Dawkins, plus some great case studies - ways schools have used and explored the Bible as a text and as a piece of UK culture and history. There's details of each of the case studies on the following pages - it would be worth churches having a look at these as well, some reallly creative ways of exploring and engaging with the Bible, in whatever translation.

Other Kings James Version resources here.

Cabinet Reshuffle

Details of David Camerons 1st cabinet reshuffle are leaking out. This is due to be the first Austerity Reshuffle - the idea is to save stationary reprinting costs by replacing Cabinet members with people with the same surname.

Teresa May will be replaced at the Home Office by James May, who will take personal charge of overseeing baggage checks at Heathrow. Independent analysts estimate this will increase the average waiting time to 7 hours.

Phil Hammond will be replaced at Defence by Richard Hammond. Army assault training will now take place on the Total Wipeout course, which as well as being more demanding, is in Argentina, will send the right messages about the Falklands after that Olympic ad.

Ken Clarke will be replaced at Justice by Jeremy Clarkson. Plans to reduce the prison population by taking prisoners outside and shooting them in front of their families have run into problems - the army has no money left to buy bullets as the entire budget has been spent repairing crashed vehicles (see Defence).

Nick Clegg will be replaced as Deputy Prime Minister by Steve Legg, an escapologist. His challenge will be to escape from the coalition whilst remaining alive as a political force.

George Osborne will replaced as Chancellor by Ozzy Osbourne. This is part of the diversification policy within the cabinet: replace an upper class millionaire with a working class millionaire. The 2013 budget will include a guitar solo.

Ed Davey will be replaced by Steve Davies. Levels of interest will remain roughly unchanged.

David Cameron will be replaced by James Cameron, a man who knows all about sinking ships.

Given the recent history of the Labour leadership, it will be difficult for them to attack the principles behind the reshuffle. Instructions during any Commons exchanges are for Coalition MP's to all point at Douglas Alexander and mutter 'who's the Danny?'

Monday, May 14, 2012

Church Commissioners Results 2011: Mission Questions.

The Church Commissioners today published their results for 2011, with performance slightly under-par, but still pretty good over the longer term. The bit that puzzled me most was this:

£37.7 million (£46.8 million) for parish mission and ministry support, primarily to less-resourced dioceses

£30.8 million (£27.5 million) for supporting bishops, including Archbishops, in their diocesan and national ministries, mainly for staff costs.

The main figure is 2011, with the 2010 figure in brackets. I had a look through the full report to see if there was any reason why support for mission should decline by 20% whilst support for bishops rose 10% at the same time, but couldn't find anything relevant.
The report itself gives details of several projects supported by special grant funding, and Andreas Whittam Smith's introduction notes:
In Leicester, traditional parochial ministry done to a high standard in the Anglo-Catholic tradition is producing good results. Liverpool Cathedral stages informal services at the same time as traditional ones. In St Andrew’s Clubmoor, church members have developed an impressive array of community projects including debt counselling and a food bank. In North Kensington, St Francis Dalgarno Way will shortly employ a children and families worker in what is a deprived area with a high proportion of young people. And in Worcester, a ministry for young people has been successfully developed despite a lack of parental involvement.
From which can be drawn the conclusion that as the Church can grow in such challenging areas, it can succeed anywhere. Nowhere is out of bounds, nowhere is beyond reach. Moreover it seems that different traditions of churchmanship can have equally good results. What mattered above all was the quality of local leadership, clergy and lay people alike, with the diocese providing backing where needed. (my emphasis)

Which begs my question: if this is so, and if this is one of the prime objectives of the Church Commissioners, why is funding declining in this area? Is it because the Dioceses aren't asking for the cash, because projects in new housing areas, are going on the back burner, or some other reason? I'm genuinely bemused. And I can't figure out the 10% rise in bishops costs either.

The other thing of note in the full report is page 11: £12m of Research and Development funding into church growth, including the church growth research project, and putting hefty money to 'help replicate church growth in areas of deprivation'. Watch this space, it's encouraging that the CofE is finally getting to grips with this. I'd love to see a more consistent approach at Diocesan level, but that too is about the 'quality of local leadership'.

Slaves to the Smartphone

for most people the servant has become the master. Not long ago only doctors were on call all the time. Now everybody is. Bosses think nothing of invading their employees’ free time. Work invades the home far more than domestic chores invade the office. Otherwise-sane people check their smartphones obsessively, even during pre-dinner drinks, and send e-mails first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

This is partly because smartphones are addictive: when Martin Lindstrom, a branding guru, tried to identify the ten sounds that affect people most powerfully, he found that a vibrating phone came third, after the Intel chime and a giggling baby.....

Ofcom, Britain’s telecommunications regulator, says that a startling 60% of teenagers who use smartphones describe themselves as “highly addicted” to their devices. So do 37% of adults.Read the full article here. It paints a grim picture of blurred boundaries between work and leisure, compulsive behaviour and a deluge of junk information.

Partly out of technological laziness, partly through being a tight-wad, I don't have a smartphone, or even a useable mobile. I spend enough time checking messages when I'm at my desk without doing it everywhere else as well. And when I'm in a meeting with someone who's phone is on, there's always the nagging sense that their entire world is in their pocket, jabbering to interrupt you, I'd much rather we were able to give each other our full attention.

How do other people manage their phones, or do the phones manage you?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Big Lunch, Sunday 3rd June: What Will You Bring?

The Big Lunch. Our local one is Sunday 3rd June, from 12.15pm at Abbey Manor Community centre. Bring food, entertainments, drink, yourselves, your neighbours, whatever. And a tin of something for the Lords Larder foodbank.

By the way, if you're thinking 'it's getting a bit late to organise something', we only got into gear a week ago...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Coalition for Marriage: Some Speech is Freer than Others

The Coalition for Marriage is campaigning, in response to government consultations and moves on the issue, to preserve the current legal definition of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

A link on the C4m home page, which enables people to respond to the government consultation on proposals to enable same sex 'marriage' has run in to 'technical problems', with over 4000 responses to the consultation being blocked as spam by Home Office software.

Meanwhile Cranmer has been reported to the Advertising Standards Authority for carrying a C4M advert (below). This is pretty appalling: whatever your views, if someone can't advocate marriage without being accused of being 'homophobic and offensive' then we're in a bit of a pickle. Echurch blog is keeping a running list of the number of bloggers posting in support.

(Update: the ASA have issued a statement on the case)

I don't see how it's possible to have a consultation, or a discussion of any sort, once we get into people threatening/taking legal action against positions they disagree with. Last time I looked we were a democracy in favour of free speech, though I'm starting to wonder.

Hymn Sudoku

Just came across the very excellent Cake or Death cartoon site

I have got to try this.....

in the meantime, we have a local drumming circle coming to tomorrows Cafe Service at the local community. It's a bit of an experiment, but after going to one of their workshops last year, there were so many spiritual images and verses whizzing through my head it seemed like a natural way to help people worship and express themselves. If I don't blog about it after Sunday, you'll know it bombed.....

Friday, May 11, 2012

Life on Mars series 3

Coalition government
Fuel price rises
Freak weather
Queens Jubilee
Disappearing Lords
War in Syria

It's like the 1970s all over again. Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Church of England Church Growth Research Project: Update

Tucked away at the end of a recent Research Bulletin from the CofE, are some details of a new research project into church growth:

The church growth research programme will consist of three inter-related strands and these are detailed further below:

Data analysis
As part of the research programme the research team will undertake a careful analysis of the full range of data that is collected by the central church as well as other existing data sets (such as that on deprivation). Work is already underway to prepare the data for analysis. The researchers will then test a range of hypotheses around church growth. They will look at the effect of particular factors whilst attempting to ‘control’ statistically for a range of other factors and interventions and so attempting to overcome the challenge of distinguishing between correlation and causation. There is potential to learn further lessons about what factors are associated with church growth from existing data, however there are some factors worthy of exploration which we do not currently collect data on. The second strand of the programme will seek to address some of these issues.

Church profiling
This strand will involve a survey of 4,000 churches plus some in-depth follow up interviews. Churches will be invited to take part following a careful sampling process to ensure that a wide range of contexts are considered. The surveys will collect a range of data enabling profiling of the factors associated with growing churches.

Cathedrals, Amalgamation of Benefices, Fresh Expressions and Church Planting.
This strand will consider a number of particular structural issues and approaches to mission and ministry and their implications for church growth. One sub-strand will explore factors relating to growth at Cathedrals. Another will look at the implications of various Benefice structures including multi-parish benefices and team ministries for growth. Other sub-strands will seek to explore the impact of Fresh Expressions and other forms of church planting on growth.

It's good to see this up and running, after initially surfacing in January, and a website 'soon' is promised for people wanting updates on the project. Whilst in the end church growth and decline is about people, and the mix of people and places (I heard 2 inspiring examples of this on Wednesday at a diocesan meeting, where the right people have clearly ended up in the right places and God is doing great things), the CofE has at last started taking seriously the masses of data it churns out and working out what to do with it.

The article concludes

This major study of numerical growth in the context of the Church of England should significantly increase understanding of factors related to church growth. In doing so, the programme will provide a range of tools to assist diocesan, national and parish church leaders to equip them in their efforts to grow the church. Linked to this, the research will inform the resource allocation decisions which are taken at all levels of the church. More robust evidence on how particular resource allocations affect the growth of the church should lead to a more effective deployment of the church’s finite (and in some cases shrinking) resources.  Good.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Fresh Expressions of Gym

A church on Exmoor has stepped in following the closure of a local gym, and is hosting 'bring and share' gymn sessions 5 times a week, with kit brought in from people's homes. Great example of big society stepping in where business has failed, and of a church knowing its place in a community.

The company who ran the gym say they are planning a re-launch in September, but based on their figures, it may be hard to make a local gym financially viable. Local folk, judging by the comments and campaign site, aren't impressed. In a sparsely populated area (as with church hosted post offices) maybe this is a different and more viable way of making facilities available to the community.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Ebuzzing top blogs, May 2012

I have no idea how accurate these are (see below), but for the record:

1. the Freethinker
2. Thinking Anglicans
3. Krish Kandiah
4. Peter Saunders - Christian Medical Comment
5. eChurch Blog
6. is the news aggregator Anglican Mainstrem, which isn't a blog
7. iBenedictines
8. Islam in Europe
9. the BIGBible Project
10. God and Politics (good to see this in the top 10, great blog)

It being the 5th month, here are some 'randomly' selected others - my main use of Ebuzzing is to discover other blogs -
15. Nick Baines
25  An Exercise in the Fundamentals of Orthodoxy
35 What's in Kelvins Head (Provost of Glasgow Cathedral, very readable)
45 Dyfed Wyn Roberts: theology beyond the fence
55 Looking Deeper (Lucy Mills). Love the poems
65 Rev Ruths Rantings
75 A Reader in Writing (has sections on 'Wildlife', 'Theology' and 'Mothers Union'. I'm just glad if I can tell the difference)
85 Distinct Reflections  written by baptist minister Neil Brighton
95 Views News and Pews

Full list here.

For statistical purists, a few riders
 - as far as I know, the ranking above depends on links and traffic from other Ebuzzing registered blogs. That cuts out plenty of traffic sources, and it also means if you're not registered, you don't get in the listing.
 - Ebuzzing isn't that good at spotting all said links, based on the evidence of my own blog!
 - most of my traffic actually comes via Twitter and Facebook, not sure how well this is picked up either.
 - Cranmer, the top blog in this category, is in the 'politics' category, and apparently you're not allowed to cover more than one subject.  Heresy Corner would be somewhere in here too, if it were allowed.
 - but, in the absence of Church Mouse and Rev Lesley, someone has to keep new media lists alive, so....

It's quite US-centric, but the best ranking device for Christian blogs is this one, which combines several different indicators into a single rating.

Churches and Bereavement Support

Care for the Family have just published the results of a survey of over 1000 churches on what ministry and support they provide to the bereaved. There are a sizeable number of churches who would like to do more to support bereaved people, but lack either the time or the expertise.

There are also a small number of churches who are involved in a lot of funerals (40+ a year), whilst the vast majority are doing fewer than 10 per year. On the ground, that may mean that a lot of funerals are done by churches which are already heavily in demand, and that makes it difficult to offer quality support.

Care for the Family are developing more resources for local churches to use in this area.

We probably do 30-40 funerals a year, alongside a large number of baptisms and weddings, 2 churches and a lot of community involvement. With more resources and expertise we could provide more support than we currently do. Some of this is about priorities, and some of it is about available time from suitable volunteers. There's only so much people can do. It would be really good to hear from a church which thinks it's offering a good level of bereavement support, and how you've gone about it.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Pornography consultation: what about Freeview?

The government is consulting on whether to move the goalposts on access to online pornography. The current default setting is that, unless people opt out, you can get at pretty much anything on the web. This is like moving into a new house and accepting an open sewer running past the front door. I'm hoping the government switches to an 'opt in' version, where the default setting is that you can't see people degrading themselves and one another via your computer.

But why stop there? Following the digital switchover, open sewers have been installed in the corner of every living room in the land (if you're lucky enough to have a living room - anyone in a house built since 2000 will be lucky to to have room for a TV).

Along with Freeview comes a batch of 'adult' channels which are installed automatically, and then need to be blocked. There's probably an army of enterprising teens who have already hacked past their parents password to get round this.

If it's good enough for the web, it's good enough for TV too. Adult content shouldn't be part of the standard Freeview package, and adult channels shouldn't be automatically installed on free digital services.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Its enough to make you Scream

The £74m spent on Edvard Munch's the Scream could have helped 1.3m people in the East African famine. But it didn't, it was spent on a painting, and everybody clapped. I've yet to see anything in the news coverage or comment that's questioned  a value system which thinks this is ok. I don't think God is clapping.

Eventually, moth and rust will destroy this picture, and one can only hope this becomes a moment we look back on with shame.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Trouble With Men

ITV1 has a documentary at 7.30pm on 'the hidden epidemic of male depression'. There's not a massive amount of programme information around, but it should be worth a look. ITV's Penny Marshall talks more about the programme here.

Total Politics has noted this week how few MPs own up to mental illness or depression, despite how common it is.

On a lighter note, here's some insight into how mens brains work.

think this might find its way into our Marriage Preparation course next year...

Not You, Surely?

I felt ashamed of the illness as I’d had such an amazing childhood – what did I have to be depressed about?! I also felt frightened, frightened that people would treat me differently and frightened that from here on in, I’d always be defined as ‘someone with depression’. The fear I felt was tangible.

It is fair to say that mostly my fears were unfounded. Being open about it all meant that I had a new found freedom. I could be honest. All those little excuses I’d made in the past to try to explain away my behaviour, were now a thing of the past.

Yes, there were some who questioned it. ‘How do YOU have depression? You’re so bubbly and outgoing.’ Along with ‘I don’t believe you have depression, you achieve so much.’

I may have seemed bubbly and outgoing on the days I actually got dressed and made it out of the house. But it was an act and it was exhausting.

read the rest here. Part of  Mental Health and Politics Week at Total Politics. Roughly one in every 5 people you meet today will have had, or currently has, struggles with depression. Can you guess which ones? Would they feel they could tell you?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Holy Week Timeline

Superb graphic produced by Bible Gateway (high res version available at the link)

HT Mark Meynell, worth visiting for links to other good stuff.

Sorry about the way it spills over into the sidebar, it was that or a very small picture.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A Bible for those who don't read the Bible

The Bible Society has just launched 'Who?', a rewritten New Testament aimed at those who don't read the Bible, which includes the 3 synoptic gospels merged into one.

Our world is an extraordinary place, a place of breathtaking beauty and fragility. It teems with life in mind-boggling variety, from the things we can see – birds, fingers, leaves – to those we can only imagine – the furthest spinning galaxies. And it all sprang from the mind of God. Before anything existed, before the rhythm of time began, God was.

‘In the beginning’, we read, God spoke a Word of creative power and – Bang! – the cosmos exploded into being. The person we have come to know as Jesus was that ‘Word’. He was with God and one with God from the very start.

that's the start of Johns gospel, but you'd worked that out already. I really like the writing style, though I'm not sure how Paul Langham managed to do over 400 pages of it whilst running a massive church in Bristol. The other good thing is that it gives us a British alternative to the Message - a great paraphrase, but occasionally betraying its cultural roots.

More here, and the link above gives you the contents and a decent excerpt as a taster. Might be worth a look.

Or, if performance poetry is more your style, the first 4 chapters of the Hip-Hop Gospel of Luke are now up on the Beatbox Bible website.