Saturday, June 30, 2012

South Somerset Local Plan - final consultation

Full details of the revised Local Plan for South Somerset have now gone up on the council website, there's a 6 week consultation window until early August, all the responses go to the national Planning Inspectorate, who then carry out a public enquiry into the plan. If approved, the plan will be finalised in 2013, which is a bit odd given that it dates from 2006.

Respondents are encouraged to say supportive as well as critical things. Once I've had a plough through I may try and highlight one or two things here. The headline is still the proposed 2500 home extension on the South side of Yeovil, and still in the plan is the report which recommends a sizeable site for 'faith infrastructure' as part of that new estate (p28-9). Might be an interesting precedent for other local councils in the area?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gold in them thar blogs

A superb post at Quarentia, on how one church tackled the subject of depression, some good ideas, resources and creative tips.

No congregation, no problem! Very funny piece from Edward Green, for anyone who's ever used a 'no organist, no problem' CD in their church. And for those who haven't.

Churches having an impact on their communties, via God and Politics. The original Big Society.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Leading of the 5000: Redesigning the CofE

Update (20/7/12): the Church in Wales has just released a report which might give us a few pointers
Update 2 (Dec 2014) Chelmsford Diocese is starting to take these stats seriously

The latest stats from the Church of England don't tell us anything radically new, but the picture they paint is fairly consistent. From 2000-2010

Baptisms fell by 14%
Confirmations fell 39% to just 22,000
Church weddings fell 13.5%
Usual Sunday attendance fell 16% (see here and here for a breakdown by Diocese)
The number of funerals taken by CofE Clergy fell 26.5%
Easter attendance fell 15%
Christmas attendance fell 12%
Full-time clergy fell 14.5%

A couple of these stats have bottomed out recently - baptisms and weddings have been stable for the last 3-4 years. There are other fascinating stats, revealing that less than half of CofE churches have toilets and kitchen facilities, and less than half do anything involving the community on church premises. But it's the clergy numbers which I've been thinking about most.

In 2011 there were 7841 stipendiary clergy in the CofE. There were also over 1000 chaplains in various places, most of them ordained too.

The CofE is currently ordaining an average of 275 full time clergy a year. Our pension age is currently 68 - you can work until 70 if you want to, but others also retire early. The average age of ordinands (people recommended for training) is currently 43 for women and 38 for men. Male ordinands outnumber women about 3:2, so lets say the average age of ordinands is 40. Add on 3 years for arranging and completing training, and the average age of new vicars is 43.

Bear with me: if every year the CofE ordains 275 people, who work on average for 25 years, then our long-term full time workforce is 6875 full time clergy. Some of those will end up as archdeacons and bishops and cathedral staff (about 360 on current numbers) and others will end up in diocesan jobs, which leaves about 6200. There are currently around 1000 ordained clergy in chaplaincy jobs, in the NHS, armed forces, educational institutions, theological colleges etc.

Which leaves 5000 of us in parish ministry, some of whom will be in training posts, so not allowed (I nearly said 'not able', but that wouldn't be true) to run a church.

If the current figures merely flatline until we reach that level, each full-time vicar will be looking after an average of 3 church buildings in 2.5 parishes containing 10,000 people between them, with 200 regular (once a month or more) worshippers. They will take an average of 29 baptisms a year, see 5 new people confirmed, take 12 weddings and 34 funerals. Less than half of them will have any kind of informal meeting space, toilet facilities, or kitchen facilities within church premises, which will severely limit their ministry to the community. And they'll each have roughly 1 CofE school, no doubt with a 'tradition' that the vicar is chair of governors. Oh yes, and they'll be encouraged to develop 'fresh expressions of church' as well.

The stats project clergy numbers forward to 2016. I would suggest that someone needs to go further than that. We need to devise a way of being the CofE that can function with only 5000 full time staff, alongside the small army of volunteers, lay ministers and unpaid clergy. And we need to work out whether the paragraph above is a realistic job description.

One possible starting point: at present, 8 out of the 27 churches in our Deanery have membership in single figures. I don't know if that's typical, we probably have a higher proportion of rural churches than most. But that means that we have 8 churches which could currently meet from week to week in a house, rather than a 150-seater medieval Grade 1 listed building, which costs getting on for £10k a year to heat and insure. Yes those seats are needed for the baptisms, weddings and funerals (see above), but it's not as though there's a national shortage of church buildings at the moment.

Rationalising a bit might be part of the solution, though only part. That in turn begs a lot of questions about the parish system (maybe for another post! Sam Norton has already gone down this road), and there's other questions to ask about vicaring as a paid profession.  What else should we do?

Whoever our next Archbishop is, the CofE needs some serious strategic thinking if we're not to collapse under our own weight. Despite a bewildering array of measures of church attendance, there isn't a single one that at the moment is out of the red. We have to face the facts of being a shrinking church if we want to stop being a shrinking church.

Update: I note the Baptist church are currently looking at how, nationally, they can function best in growing healthy, missionary churches. The Methodists are exploring how to be 'a movement shaped for mission', and have a national statement of vision and values, and priorities for themselves as a whole church. Hello CofE? National leadership on this stuff is possible....

New Government Guidelines on Partnership with Faith Groups

The Department for International Development has just published guidelines on partnership working with faith groups. It's a mercifully brief and well-written document, some snippets reproduced below.

The issues in development parallel those faced within the UK as well. The document recognises the role of faith groups in relief, development, education, health etc., but also that faith can give rise to conflict. DFiD identifies 3 principles for working in partnership
 - Transparency - that faith groups are open about their goals and priorities
 - Mutual respect - everyone recognises what others bring to the table
 - Understanding  - the role faith groups play in development.

It also recognises several issues that need to be wrestled with to make the partnerships as effective as possible.

It's an encouraging read, not least for the stories of effective work between our government and relief agencies. I'm glad that at least one government department is functioning as it should, even if the rest of it resembles a drunkard on rollerblades. It also strikes me that nearly all of the document could apply to partnership working in the UK, which is pretty patchy, and faces a lot of the same challenges.

Faith groups are doing excellent work in providing not only humanitarian relief, but delivering health, education and other services in some of the most troubled parts of the world. They are making a real difference to countless lives. The work of governments alone will never be enough. For lasting change, states must fully engage with a range of civil society organisations. I recognise the unique contribution of faith groups in both delivering development and connecting with communities in the UK and abroad, particularly those that are marginalised or can’t be reached by other means. (from the introduction by Andrew Mitchell, International Development Secretary)

Tearfund analysed the costs and benefits of the DFID funded disaster risk reduction programme implemented by Presbyterian Church in 53 remote villages of Mzimba District, Malawi. The study found that for each dollar invested, there was a positive return of 24 dollars to the community. The return of investment reflected increase in crop production, increases in small livestock production, reduced education drop-out rates and reduced mortality.
In 2010

Challenge: Many development organisations have avoided the issue of faith and religion and its contribution to development. Many development agencies were heavily influenced by a Western tradition that draws a sharp distinction between religion and the state. Religion and faith has sometimes been regarded as a barrier to development and inherently contentious. Faith groups are sometimes excluded by development agencies and believe that when they are allowed in, they have to "leave their faith at the door". This estrangement however is not just one-sided. Some faith leaders typically see themselves as the defenders of traditional moral values amid the onslaught of a secular and materialistic world - and some want to have ‘nothing to do with official donors’ or with other faiths.

Press release here, (see God and Politics for some quotes from itand it's encouraging to look at the headlines in the DFiD Annual Report, published on Monday. I'm proud to be part of a country which has got emergency food aid to 6m people, given out 12m anti-malaria nets, and helped over 5m children into primary school.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Surfeit of Democracy? Yet Another Consultation on the South Somerset Local Plan

The third round of consultations is about to start on the South Somerset Local Plan, this time on a redraft of the plan being submitted to the Government for approval. There's the traditional 6 week consultation period, starting on June 28th (this Thursday) until August 10th. The plan covers housing, employment etc. for the area up to 2028.

Headlines from the latest draft are here, and will be familiar to anyone who knows the story so far. There's no change in the proposals from earlier this year, and the heated public consultation on the 'Urban Extension' of 2500 houses. The plan is still to build just over 1500 of these by 2028, and the rest after the end of the period, to the S  of Yeovil with a buffer Zone between the development and the village of East Coker.

The full plan will be available for download here later this week. From personal experience, it is worth having a look if you've got the time, and putting in a response. I put in quite a few responses in the first consultation phase, and at least 2 seem to have got a result: a reduction in a bizarrely large allocation of space for changing rooms, compared to other community facilities, and the recognition of the Cambridge Horizons study on faith facilities in new housing developments, on which some of the recommendations for the urban extension are now based.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Rowan Williams quote that's not in the headlines

"We have to question what we mean by growth. The ability to produce more and more consumer goods (not to mention financial products)... sets up a vicious cycle in which it is necessary all the time to create new demand for goods and thus new demands on a limited material environment for energy sources and raw materials. The hectic inflation of demand creates personal anxiety and rivalry. By systematically depleting the resources of the planet, it systematically destroys the basis for long-term wellbeing."

Rowan Williams, as leaked to the Observer today. He's said stuff like this before, but such is our new media goldfish attention span that it's portrayed as news. The ongoing Eurozone crisis, and the global slowdown, is begging the same question: is consumer capitalism sustainable growth, or cancerous?

Of course, it shifts more copy for the Observer to headline on the Tory-bashing stuff about the Big Society. And it's much more comfortable for most of us to read about that, than about the Dark Side of our current economic model and spending habits. The psychological cost of consumer capitalism is epidemic depression, anxiety, insecurity and greed, the environmental cost is a planet that's wasting away. But if that's too depressing to contemplate, we can always buy more stuff to drown out the prophets.

There are also questions to ask about how the paper got hold of the quotes in the first place: it would be supremely ironic if it turned out to be a bit of marketing by the publishers.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Yeovil, as seen by Mufasa

Come over here and say that.....

In other local news, looks like we might be getting a KFC after all (woohoo!), and there's yet another round of public consultations coming up on the South Somerset Local Plan, before final approval. This starts next week, but this time the responses go to a national Planning Inspector, who makes the final decision on the plan before it can be formally adopted and put into action.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Clergy Tax Avoidance

At vicar training college, we had a visit from a clergy tax specialist, to help us get our heads round the peculiar world of clergy taxation. Every year I pay a tax specialist to sort my finances out - I figure it's worth the money I pay him for the stress I avoid in trying to put my tax affairs together, and the anxiety I avoid following my declaration just in case I've got something wrong and HMRC descend in fire from the throne.

The chap at college informed us that, with the various exemptions we could claim, he could probably get our personal tax liability down to nearly zero. I made a mental note (as did several others I spoke to) never to engage his services. There is no representation without taxation, it's one of the responsibilities of citizenship, even if we don't like all the things the tax is going on, or particularly trust the people who are making the decisions. For those who are liable to tax, there is a moral responsibility to pay it.

As society strains to extends the sovereignty of personal choice into more and more areas (e.g. the definition of marriage, when and how to die), we're also rowing back from corporate expressions of citizenship and belonging (declining turnout, very few cities have gone for elected mayors, and there is minimal enthusiasm for an elected Lords or police commissioners). It may not be long before we're clamouring for a personalised taxation regime, as it's one of the few remaining things that are a 'given'.

At the moment, peronalised taxation is only available to those with the means. Jimmy Carr has this morning admitted on Twitter than in signing up to a tax avoidance scheme he made 'a terrible error of judgement'. I'm not a Carr enthusiast, but I can understand how he got there - if you earn money, but aren't too excited by facts and figures, it's easier to delegate the management to someone else. Better that than stuff it under the mattress a la Ken Dodd. And so you take their advice without really working out what it means. And if you think he's only come clean because he's been found out, still, fair play for apologising straight away and sorting it out (are you watching politicians? journalists?)

Some wag commented on Twitter yesterday that most clergy avoid tax by dint of not being paid very much. Even so, earning people have a responsibility to pay tax. I don't know if there's any sensible tax version of the Universal Credit - just as there is a universal baseline benefit level to keep people out of poverty, so could there be a universal baseline tax liability beyond which you can't write any more off?

Final bit of credit - well done to the Times for going after this story in a big way. I didn't like it's front pages last week, and I have a massive ambivalence to all Murdoch papers, but they're doing well on this one.

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own

When I was a young Christian all the emphasis was on personal disciplines, particularly of daily prayer and Bible study. Personal disciplines remain important, but I do not believe they are sufficient to form Christian character today.

In those early years of faith the Christian story was better known in Britain, and 'Christian' values taken as norms, even if they were not adhered to. Culture reinforced discipleship much more than today.

Today culture is more likely to be corrosive of discipleship as supportive. It is corporate disciplines and support which are needed. A Christian way of life - the daily practice of obedience to Jesus - needs a proactive supportive community. The term 'one another' appears frequently in the New Testament and it is persistent, intentional 'one anothering' which will enable lives of discipleship. I do not know how discipleship can be sustained without some regular, face-to-face small group for mutual support and challenge.

(Graham Cray in the latest e-xpressions newsletter, subscribe here)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


A life-sized bouncy castle version of Stonehenge is touring the country from tomorrow. Oddly named Sacrilege, most of the venues are London based, but the SW sees a few as well, including Exeter and Bristol. This is either the coolest, or most bonkers, thing associated with the Olympics yet.

8 ways to keep people out of church

Norman Ivison has a good post today on the culture of 'Generation Y' (people for whom U2 is dads music), and what aspects of church culture they would find off-putting. Reading through the list, I could imagine most Gen X-ers and baby boomers nodding their heads as well.

Norman has a fuller description of each one, but they are things like
 - don't be tempted to offer variety
 - preach and teach lots but don't encourage questioning or disagreement
 - take church very seriously and don't encourage fun
 - have complex structures, understood by only a few, which make decision making fiendishly complex and drawn out.
 - don't experiment.

Most of these are no brainers, and expose some of the cultural and institutional captivity of the church. But no single culture or era has it all correct - sometimes taking time over a decision is better than rushing it, valuing tradition may work better than trying to customise and personalise everything (because the universe doesn't revolve around me), and the two need to be in dialogue, rather than 1 replacing the other.

But I'm also culturally captive, and as someone for whom experimentation, dialogue, efficient structures and variety are 'normal', its easy to forget that for others these things are a bit scary. But probably not as many people as we imagine - outside of changes to music in worship, a lot of church leaders I know have faced far less opposition then they imagined they would when leading change.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MPs and Mental Health - in praise of politicians

Whilst David Cameron had his day before the judge last week, his fellow MPs were doing something quite amazing. During a debate on mental health, several of them spoke in public for the first time of their struggles with mental illness - depression, OCD and the like.

Kevan Jones, MP for Durham North, said he had "thought very long and hard" about whether to speak publicly about his mental health problems.

"In 1996 I suffered from quite a deep depression related to work issues and other things going on in my life at that moment," he said in the Commons.

"Like a lot of men, you try and deal with it yourself. You don't talk to people. I just hope you realise, Mr Speaker, what I'm saying is very difficult right now."

He said it was important to talk about mental health in Parliament because "we are... in politics designed to admit that somehow if you admit fault or frailty you are going to be looked upon in a disparaging way, in terms of both the electorate and your peers as well".

He "didn't know" whether his admission would affect how people viewed him or his career prospects but added: "I actually don't care now because if it helps other people who have suffered from depression in the past - good."

Full marks to our politician for this one, it's great to hear of the positive feedback they've received, and it's starting to feel like things are changing in our attitudes to mental illness, that we're becoming more understanding and sympathetic. A Private Members Bill is due soon to tackle discrimination against people with mental health conditions.

Channel 4 have a season of programmes on mental health coming up,  something which the BBC did a couple of years ago.

But all this has to be seen in the light of yesterdays report into mental health services in the UK, which was scathing in it description of what's offered to the mentally ill at the moment. I was startled  by the stat that half of all ill-health in the under 65s is mental illness, and the report claims that 3/4 are not getting the proper treatment. Though sadly that's not surprising - my experience at local level is that GPs are far less clued up on mental illness than they are on physical illness, and local specialist services are under-resourced. So all of the above is a start, but there is a long way to go.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Dead Euro Sketch

I simply have to link to this.

Mr. Pralino: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this Euro what I purchased not 11 years ago from this very bank.
Banker: Oh yes, the, uh, the Maastrict Blue…What’s,uh…What’s wrong with it?

Mr. Pralino: I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it, my lad. ‘i’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it!
Banker: No, no, ‘i’s uh,…it’s resting.

superb stuff. All together now 'I'm a Eurocrat and I'm ok.....'

Mission Back on the Agenda at General Synod

Having frequently had a go at General Synod for leaving mission off the agenda (ask anyone on my Twitter feed during February), I'd like to give it some credit for this time round:

As in July 2011, part of the Saturday morning has been structured in such a way as to foster a culture of listening and reflection in the Synod. The groups that met last year, each comprising twelve members and led by a bishop, will reflect, in the context of worship, on a Bible passage and on the Church's contemporary mission.

This will be followed by a debate on the role of mission agencies and on partnership between the Church of England and other churches of the Anglican Communion.

The mission theme will continue on the Saturday evening with a debate on the 'fresh expressions' movement, which encourages new ways of being the Church within the contemporary context, in the light of a joint Anglican-Methodist report which considers how these initiatives relate to the doctrinal understanding of what it is to be a church.

Of course, mission is not a theme, it's the key reason for the church's existence, but this is a start. However, I'm a bit suspicious of 'debate' if it doesn't lead to any action: how will the CofE work more in partnership with other agencies and churches? how will it develop the work of Fresh Expressions? How will synod arrive at an agreed position on the church's mission?

It also looks like there'll be more work on a 'national mission strategy' in February next year. Is the ship slowly turning?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

'top' Ebuzzing blogs - the ones that got away

By mistake last week I couldn't tell the difference between 5 and 6, so here are the blogs I mistakenly left off the list from the Ebuzzing top religion/belief blogs from June.

56 Resistance and Renewal well worth a look, doesn't post every day, but good pieces, well set out, very readable.
66 DoDifferent writing about web design theology and mission
76 Theblogofkevin been around a while, and I still haven't got used to the typeface, but 2 fascinating recent posts, one comparing church streams to airline companies, and another on the latest offering from Jay-Z and Kanye West.
86 Postmodern Bible not exactly a frequent poster, and if you're a Methodist you may want to shield your eyes before looking at the stats quoted.
96 Talking Christian very nice, personal blog, good place to go if you want to avoid all the media-induced church politics frenzy and find a normal person trying to be a normal Christian.

and if you're still into lists, TallSkinnyKiwi has a list of the 'Worlds Best Christian Blogs'. Of course, these are just the top blogs in the opinion of the person who authored the list and the people who appear on it (wink), but there'll all good ones and worth a look if you've not come across them already. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Body Beautiful

Another chunk from Willard & Simpson which struck me, talking about what it means to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, and to honour God with our bodies

"...this means that we do not use our body to dominate or control others. This means different things to different people. For example, we do not present our body in ways that elicit sexual thoughts, feelings and actions from others. We do not try to be 'sexy'. We can be naturally attractive without that.

another example has to do with intimidation by means of our body. There are many aspects of this, from subtle hints to brute force. the most common forms of it are social: 'power dressing', sarcasm, and knowing looks and remarks. Having given up our body to God, we do not use it in these ways.

A final example is overwork... it is said that work is the new 'drug of choice'." (Revolution of Character p141)

The danger of taking just one section is that it doesn't say everything that the authors want to say, and can look a bit negative. However I was challenged by it: what is natural smartness and looking decent as a mark fo respect (rather than turning up looking like the contents of a skip), and what is manipulation? 'Sexy' clothing is almost the default setting for those who can get away with it - is that the idolised 'freedom of expression', or is there a wisdom in not dressing as an object of desire - after all, we are far more than that?

and you might think this is all a bit nit-picky and that some people should just chillax. But I'm guessing that when Jesus said 'seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness', he meant us to be rigorous about it. After all, if this is the most important thing, and we're only to do it half-heartedly, then what does that say about the rest of our discipleship? The atheletes training for the Olympics pay attention to every part of their lives to make sure they succeed: sleep, diet, exercise, rest, learning, equipment, practice etc. So if we want to 'succeed' as disciples....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sleep, the path to Holiness

"If we really intend to submit our body as a living sacrifice to God, our first step  may be to start getting enough sleep. Sleep is a good indicator of how thoroughly we trust in God. The psalmist, who knew danger and uncertainty well, also spelt well: 'In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone O Lord make me to dwell in safety' (Ps4:8)

...for if we are not rested, the body moves to the centre of our focus and makes its presence more strongly felt; the tendencies of its parts call out more strongly for gratification.... Rest, properly taken, gives clarity to the mind. Weariness, by contrast, can make us seek gratification and energy from food or drugs, from various illicit relationships, or from egoistic postures... they pull us away from relying on God, and from living in his power."
(Willard & Simpson 'Revolution of Character' p141-2)

Read this today, and it rings true for me. I must admit I'm far more likely to faff about online if I'm tired than if I'm fully rested and alert. Does that happen to anyone else or is it just me?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

British Summer: Installation Failed

For those of you not on Facebook, where this corker is doing the rounds.

Fame at last

Robert Peston @Peston retweeted to 155,049 followers:

davidmkeen david keen

@Peston all getting a bit Pythonesque "Nobody expects the Spanish debt position"

Jun 13, 10:48 AM via web

A busy week at Cartoon Church

Dave Walker is currently uploading stacks of cartoons from his books to the CartoonChurch website, plenty there for your amusement. For a small fee you can use them yourself in church publications and the like. More details and info on the Cartoon Blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's Wrong With This Picture?

This very John Majoresque idyll of cricket, countryside and arteficial rainclouds will be part of the Olympic opening ceremony. The only bit of actual UK countryside being recreated is Glastonbury Tor, top right. Driving past it today, it still had the church tower on top that has graced it for centuries. Danny Boyle's version has substituted this for a tree. To be honest it now looks more like Wyndham Hill in Yeovil. I'm not a great fan of obsolete bits of church building, but surely the Tor tower is what makes it distinctive, and links to the religious heritage (both real and mythical) which makes Glastonbury so distinctive?

Looks like fun though. There's some close ups in this BBC report.

CofE Response to Marriage Consultation

The CofE has published its response to the government consultation on changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The consultation closes on Thursday.

the response begins: (the proposed changes) would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.

We have supported various legal changes in recent years to remove unjustified discrimination and create greater legal rights for same sex couples and we welcome that fact that previous legal and material inequities between heterosexual and same-sex partnerships have now been satisfactorily addressed. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships. We also believe that imposing for essentially ideological reasons a new meaning on a term as familiar and fundamental as marriage would be deeply unwise.

full response here, 13 pages worth. Press release here

Bishop Tim Stevens, quoted by the BBC: "I think the difficulty we have here is the substitution of equality for uniformity, that is to say that there can be no distinction at all between men and women," he said.

"From a standing start within three months to arrive at a fully considered, weighed and articulated redefinition of a fundamental social institution which has been thought about in one particular way for centuries... to change all that on the basis of a consultation like this seems to be at the very least unwise and ill considered."

There are several headlines that suggest that the main issue is whether the CofE will need to be disestablished. That's completely beside the point, and isn't one of the main arguments in the submission. This isn't about the CofE keeping any special status, though changes to that status might be a consequence of changes in the definition of marriage.
I guess I'm contributing to all the chatter about this today, when I'd much rather the CofE was focusing on other issues, but Clegg and Cameron did ask what we thought. And it's important to get this right, rather than make a fundamental social change in a very short time-frame to appease a few LibDem backbenchers.

The consultation itself is about mechanics, not about principle: This consultation is about how we best remove the ban on same-sex couples having a civil marriage, not on whether this should or should not  happen says the Home Office consultation page. Which would, if they wanted to, enable the government to dismiss the entire CofE response on a technicality. The language used ('ban') and the way the whole thing is set up shows that the government doesn't actually want a public debate on this.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Loaded, lads and the degrading of women

Excellent post at God and Politics, on the slow awakening of a Loaded editor to the realities of pornography. I won't be posting anything today, except to recommend that you read Gillan's excellent piece, which also references a campaign for New Look to withdraw some appalling t-shirts.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ebuzzing top religion blogs, June 2012

Alongside the normal 'yes buts' of any ranking system (see last month) Ebuzzing is also struggling to cope with Bloggers switch from .com to for UK blogs. but for those of you who like lists, here's the top few:

1. the Freethinker
2. Krish Kandiah
3. Islam in Europe
4. Thinking Anglicans
5. Echurch blog
6. The BIGBible Project
7. Peter Saunders - Christian Medical Comment
8. The 'Anglican' 'Mainstream' new aggregator
9. The Cartoon Blog  the marvellous Dave Walker is currently publishing a series of former Church Times cartoons, hence the bounce
10. Welcome to the top 10 Vicky Beeching, worship leader.

It being the 6th month, here are some 'randomly' selected others -
16. Bishop Alan (last month it was Bishop Nick Baines at 15, wonder who'll be 17 in July? #patternemerging
26 Bartholemews Notes on Religion
36 Emerging UMC  United Methodist website, mission perspective.
46 A Reader in Writing (those with good memories will remember this was 75 last month. See what a link from my blog will do for you?...)
55 Per Crucem ad Lucem well, exactly. Really worth a look.
65 Dean Roberts a 'worshipping welshman'. If he's still worshipping today, I'll take my hat off to him. Though a wetsuit might be more use.
75 Distinct Reflections some good posts on discipleship at the moment, concise and punchy.
85 Apples of Gold
95 Digging a Lot. I do like this one.

Full list here.

update: oops, sorry, someone's pointed out that I've slipped from 6's to 5's, apologies, you'll get a link later in the week.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


Silence is something that people today avoid or even fear … Our busy culture prevents us being still.

Daunting as it may be, we all need silence. When we enter regularly into silence, we start to see things with greater clarity. And especially, I come to know myself and I come in touch with that part of myself which is the deepest part: my soul.

Silence is the gateway to the soul and the soul is the gateway to God.

(Abbot Christopher Jamison)

Saturday, June 02, 2012

New Online Library of Mission Research Papers

Yet more blessings upon the Sheffield Centre, who have gone live with an online library of research papers on mission, fresh expressions, emerging church and church planting.

The SCOLER library holds MA and PhD theses, and if you've done one on a relevant topic, it can be uploaded and added in. The portal links to abstracts of each thesis, and the full text where available. I'm already intrigued by Mark Rylands' 'Mission Shaped Cathedral'.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Praying for Weather

My main current preoccupation is Sundays weather, as we've got a big bash planned for the Jubilee, and having space around the local community hall as well as inside it will be really helpful. Especially as we have no idea how many are coming!

Theological/pastoral problem: praying for less rain here will, all other things being equal, mean more rain somewhere else, unless the front miraculously retreats to the Atlantic. What kind of weather systems result from different groups of people effectively praying against each other? Does God actually answer prayers for weather?

I know God is trying to teach me to trust him more, and there have been several things in the last week which should have made the penny drop. It will be fine, even if the weather isn't. It just might get a bit crowded, that's all.

Please ignore this post


there, I did warn you. And no, I'm not going to explain.