Saturday, November 29, 2014

After Black Friday

Having 'celebrated' Black Friday, here's a plan for the next 7 days:

What On Earth Did I Buy That For Saturday

Think about going to church to ask for forgiveness for elbowing a granny out of the way, but decide against it Sunday

Sorry You Were Out, Please Ring 666 101 Between 5am and 5.02am Yesterday To Arrange  Redelivery, Or Collect In Person From Our Office In Carlisle But Only If You Have 6 Different Forms of I.D And Even Then We'll Tell You One Of Them Isn't Valid So You'll Have To Come Back Another Day. Or Failing That We'll Just Leave the Package With a Neighbour, That One You Don't Get On With, Who'll 'Forget' to Tell You They've Got It Until It's Had 2 Days Rain and A Severe Frost Monday   (Also known as Cider Monday, for those in the West country. Actually, every Monday is a Cider Monday for those in the West country)

Red Bill Tuesday

Irregular Activity on Your Card, Transaction Has Not Been Processed Wednesday

I Completely Forgot About the Advent Calendar Thursday

And I Forgot The Flaming* Advent Candle Too, Now We've Got To Burn Through 4 Days In One Go But I'll Be Lucky If I Can Keep the Kids At the Table That Long Friday

I'm So Depressed I'd Better Go Shopping Again Saturday


*see what I did there?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Close the borders

With todays news that net migration to the UK has risen to over 1/4m, here are a few things that need to go back where they came from.

Black Friday: US capitalist tradition of monetising a popular festival (see Christmas, Hallowe'en), being imported en masse by the UK high street. Except in this case, we don't even get the festival. No  Thanksgiving, just more shopping. Because clearly we don't shop enough. At it certainly doesn't look like it's bringing out the best in our national character. (Update: the following day is now officially called What On Earth Did I Buy That For? Saturday)

NHS Staff: sure, we can't do without them, and we've failed so badly at training our own that we need to import about 30% of frontline staff for hospitals. But are we seriously suggesting that the UK has more need of these trained staff than, say, Pakistan, the Phillipines, Romania? We no longer have the Empire but we're still just as rapacious when it comes to stripping other countries of their assets, in this case, highly skilled medical staff. 25% of doctors from sub-Saharan Africa are working in the West. Meanwhile our own specialists are busy administering botox. Who cares if a few more kids die in Uganda so long as we keep those celebrity wrinkles at bay?

Female 'pop star's: take your pick - Madonna, Kylie, Katie Perry, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus etc. Is this what a feminist looks like? Judge a woman not on the contents of her character but on the absence of her clothing.

Weather: stupid rain, coming over here all the way from Mexico and the US, without a visa, raining on our hills, running down drains built with British money, causing floods that the British taxpayer has to clear up. And there's been more this year than ever before, we're being literally swamped with the stuff.

If Jesus ran the Home Office (and the railways)

The YouGov website invites you to imagine what Jesus would think of immigration, gay marriage, and rail nationalisation. Because obviously, these are the 3 things he's most bothered about in the UK at the moment. When you put in your opinion, the results of a recent poll are then revealed:

   View image on Twitter
YouGov note that Jesus would be strongly out of step with public opinion on the death penalty (the majority are in favour of it) and on immigration (the majority favour tighter controls). But as the table shows, we still have a tendency to think Jesus agrees with us, whether we're Libdems on marriage or Kippers on immigration. It's a reminder of our tendency to make Jesus in our own image. (For another excellent example of this, read 10 sins we take less seriously, and work out whether Christians are just relaxing about stuff that we were too uptight about, or letting the world and the culture mould us instead of Jesus).

Full tables are here, which also has a breakdown of the results by declared religious standpoint. Not surprisingly, those of 'no religion' think Jesus would be more likely to support gay marriage than either Christians or those of other religions. And I can't get my head around the 1 in 20 'Christians' who think that Jesus (refugee to Egypt) would want no immigration at all into the UK. I suspect we are dealing with a spectrum of understandings of what 'Christian' means!

The unasked question was 'how much does this shape your own view?' I also wonder whether the sizeable number of 'don't knows' for all questions represents the historical and cultural distance between us and Jesus, or (in the case of Christians) the legacy of several generations of privatised spirituality which doesn't give people the tools to think through issues in the public square. Immigration is a big issue, how do we as churches help people to think Christianly about it, rather than leaving it to a bidding war between Farage and Cameron?

Ht political betting.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Not a postman

"The congregation assumes that we mean what we say and seldom asks us, 'do you actually believe that stuff or are you just paid to say it?' ...what we are ought to match what we proclaim and we are uneasy when it doesn't.. Standing in the pulpit takes us directly into questions of personal integrity, authenticity, holiness and transparency. We want to be WYSIWYG preachers where what the congregation sees is what it gets. It was said of John Chrysostom that he 'gesticulated with his whole existence.' "

If you're delivering a message that you're not personally committed to, that makes you a postman, not a preacher.

(David Day, Embodying the Word)

Same goes if you're 'just' a plain old follower of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bacon and Eggs

There was a story told (probably apocryphal) in seminary about how crusaders, as they were preparing for battle, would be baptized with their sword hand out of the water.  The soldiers would march through the water, with the water washing over thier heads, but their hands held high out of of the water.  They didn’t want to baptize the hand that would be used to kill their enemy.   Everything else had been consecrated and set apart for God, but their hand was their own, to do with as they please. (source)

I'm not sure where I first heard this one, but the image of holding things 'out of the water' is a powerful one. It's probably easier for other people to spot what's in your upraised hand, but we don't always welcome that kind of feedback. How fully immersed do we want to get?

I heard it put in another way in this book by Gavin Calver: When it comes to a cooked breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

Mike Pilavachi speaks of a young man he was dealing with, who split up with his long-term girlfriend because there might have been someone better out there. He makes the comment that whilst older people give a sharp intake of breath at this point, folk in their 20s and 30s often shrug and say 'fair enough'. In a commercial culture which is constantly offering 'upgrades' to the technology we have come to depend on, commitment to a particular make & model is actually a hindrance to getting the best. Consumerism erodes a sense that commitment is a virtue.

The crusaders story reminds us that we're not the first ones to struggle with the notion of 100% commitment. But how do we talk about a discipleship which costs everything in a culture of chickens?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mental health provision: demand up 30% staffing down 8% under the Coalition

The Royal College of Nursing says there are now 3,300 fewer posts in mental health nursing, and 1,500 fewer beds, than in 2010.

At the same time, demand has increased by 30%, the RCN said.

A mental health charity said this was damaging the care patients received, leaving them needing long-term support.

According to the RCN's figures, mental health nursing posts declined by 8% in the past four years in England.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, posts were cut by 1%.

full report here. 1/3 of mental health nurses are over 50, so there are both long and short term issues.

Though its nice that lots of people have clicked on my spoof shortlist of candidates for the first women bishop, but I'd much rather they clicked on this. I really can't get my head round the fact that Nick Clegg made this a key part of his conference speech a few weeks ago, that the Libdems make all the right noises, but then all this happens on their watch. The mismatch between words and deeds is not just a scandal, its life-threatening.

Update: I preached this morning on the picture of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, where Jesus speaks of how, when we do an act of kindness for a vulnerable person, we are doing it for him. That goes for governments too.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How to use Diocesan church attendance stats

A few days ago I reported on the latest CofE attendance stats, and noted that Leicester diocese had made a remarkable turnaround. Having lost nearly a quarter of its adult membership from 1990-2010, it has grown modestly in the last 4 years.

During an idle moment (I get 3 a year) I popped along to their website, and discovered this. Think for a moment of the embattled CofE church warden. Every year they are sent a large form from the Diocese to fill in with statistics of all shapes and sizes: baptisms, funerals, how many children were present on the 3rd Sunday of October, etc. Usually all they get in return is a letter a few months later telling them their parish share* has gone up by an eye-watering sum.

Not so in Leicester. All those lovingly collected stats are equally lovingly turned into a detailed report on what is actually happening across the Diocese. Data on church growth and decline, joiners and leavers, baptisms, weddings, size of parish, fresh expressions etc. There are some fascinating breakdowns: e.g. that in the deanery of NW Leicester, the average vicar is doing 30 baptisms, 31 funerals and 10 weddings a year. Give that man/woman a sabbatical!

Coupled with a helpful headlines page, this is a real attempt to interrogate the data and learn from it, to let the stats speak, and to link them to specific initiatives in the Diocese (they have a thing called Mission Partnerships, those churches which are part of one do better), and specific goals (e.g. the number of mature Fresh Expressions by a certain date).

Also worth noting, the stats were collected in November (they cover attendance in October 2013) and reported in the following February. That's a pretty impressive turnaround, and again speaks of a diocese which values the information it's collecting: if it's important and we've something to learn from it, then lets learn it as soon as we can, rather than waiting a year. The CofE national stats this year, for the first time, came out within 12 months of the original data collection. Only in the church would this be seen as a good result, in retail it's more like 12 hours.

I have never seen a Diocesan document like this before, do any of the other Dioceses do something similar? If not, why not? Any diocese serious about looking into the detail of decline and addressing it (or the detail of growth and learning from it) needs this kind of analysis. Well done them.

*parish share is a sum paid to a CofE diocese by each of its churches, which goes into a common pot to pay for clergy, training, central admin and resourcing etc. Because most CofE churches are shrinking in size, any church which has stable or growing membership normally faces a parish share increase which comfortably outstrips their rate of growth. This continues for a few years until the parish share gets so big that the church can only pay it by cutting back in other areas, or diverting resources into fundraising, at which point it joins the massed ranks of declining churches. Yes, I know, you don't have to tell me.... 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why do people use Food Banks?

A new report jointly published by Oxfam, the CofE, the Trussell Trust and Child Poverty Action Group busts some of the myths about why people use food banks. Some of the findings are very troubling: they point to a welfare state which no longer works as a safety net, relying on charities to plug the holes. We appear to be heading back to pre-Beveridge days. Here's part of the main summary:

Key findings from the research showed:

  • Food banks were predominantly a last-resort, short-term measure, prompted by an 'acute income crisis' - something which had happened to completely stop or dramatically reduce their income
  • Income crisis could be caused by sudden loss of earnings, change in family circumstances or housing problems. However, for between half and two thirds of the users from whom additional data was collected, the immediate trigger for food bank use was linked to problems with benefits (including waiting for benefits to be paid, sanctions, problems with ESA*) or missing tax credits
  • Many food bank users were also not made aware of the various crisis payments available in different circumstances, and even fewer were receiving them
  • 19-28% of users for whom additional data was collected had recently had household benefits stopped or reduced because of a sanction* and 28-34% were waiting for a benefit claim which had not been decided*
  • Many food bank users faced multiple challenges, including ill-health, relationship breakdown, mental health problems or substantial caring responsibilities.  Many were unable to work or had recently lost their job.  The frequency of bereavement among food bank users was also a striking feature of this research
  • Use of emergency food aid in the UK, particularly in the form of food banks, has dramatically increased over the last decade. Figures from The Trussell Trust show that numbers receiving three days' food from their food banks rose from 128,697 in 2011-12 to 913,138 in 2013-14.

Most food bank users interviewed spoke of how severe personal financial crises were often the last straw that had brought them there, only turning to food banks as a last resort when other coping strategies had failed. Deciding to accept help from a food bank was frequently described as 'embarrassing' and 'shameful' but users reported that they would have been completely bereft without it. Considerable personal strength and dignity was also shown by participants, with many displaying great resilience in spite of their circumstances.

The research showed that the very real challenges people face are too often being compounded - rather than assisted - by their experience of the social security system*.

One mum**, who had to give up work to care for her son with serious medical conditions and required intensive support, spoke about her experience when her Child Tax Credits were halved without notice and was horrified by how she was treated. "When our money was stopped, there was no compassion, there was no way to get support," she said, adding "we got behind on all our bills; everything just got swallowed up, and my direct debits were bouncing.

"I thought the system would protect me. I never thought I would be completely ignored. I feel I was let down hugely. My benefits are my safety net - if they're removed, how are families like ours meant to survive?"

The research is based on 40 in depth interviews, and data collected from another 900 users at selected food banks. Over half were there in part because of problems with state benefits.

Food banks vie with gambling as one of the boom areas of the austerity economy. (Remember how we only got hit with that EU levy after drug addiction and prostitution were counted into the GDP figures). It's all pretty depressing. This is where we need our politicians, but it's the charities and the churches who are putting the spotlight on it. Good job we don't stick to our knitting and stay out of politics.

update: links to some of the media coverage of this here, scroll down a little bit.

'If you disagree with me, I have to love you more'

from Justin Welbys address to Synod this week:

....the future of the Communion requires sacrifice.  The biggest sacrifice is that we cannot only work with those we like, and hang out with those whose views are also ours.  Groups of like-minded individuals meeting to support and encourage each other may be necessary, indeed often are very necessary, but they are never sufficient.  Sufficiency is in loving those with whom we disagree.  What may be necessary in the way of party politics, is not sufficient in what might be called the polity of the Church.

In this Church of England we must learn to hold in the right order our calling to be one and our calling to advance our own particular position and seek our own particular views to prevail in the Church generally, whether in England or around the world. We must speak the truth in love.

In practice that has to mean the discipline of meeting with those with whom we disagree and listening to each other carefully and lovingly. It means doing that as much as when we meet with those with whom we do agree, whether it is during sessions of General Synod or at other times. It means celebrating our salvation together and praying together to the God who is the sole source of our hope and future, together. It means that even when we feel a group is beyond the pale for its doctrine, or for its language about others or us, we must love. Love one another, love your neighbour, love your enemy. Who in the world is in none of those categories?

the title of this blog post is a saying of the great George Bebawi, one of my tutors at vicar college. It's a reminder that following Jesus means we make more effort, not less, with those whom we don't see eye to eye with. It may be that one of them is Jesus (Matthew 25:31-end)

Monday, November 17, 2014

First Woman Bishop: The Shortlist

The CofE is to have women bishops, or 'bishops' as they'll now be known. Leaving aside the tenuous link between current practice and the actual role of a bishop in the Bible, there's bound to be a flood of 'who'll be the first one?' blogs and articles.

I've already given my suggestions for Archbishop of Canterbury after Rowan Williams stepped down, which were roundly ignored, but undeterred.....

Teresa May: plenty of experience with public school/Oxbridge educated colleagues, so no problems with the House of Bishops. Won a personal battle with Michael Gove in the cabinet, so the church school and Guardian-reading constituency is sewn up.

Clara Oswald: has spent most of the last year trying to deal with a crotchety old man with limited social skills. Don't worry, there are plenty more out there and they'll start writing to you in longhand from about your 3rd week onwards.

Tess Daly: plenty of experience trying to make discouraged adults feel better after they've spent all week preparing, and given their all in front of a room full of people, only to get harsh comments from folk who sit in the same seats week after week, and watch but never do anything.

Emma Watson: sooner or later there's bound to be a 'she only got the job because she's young and pretty' so lets just get it out the way now. After all, who cares that she's talented and intelligent?

Tinky Winky: purple, carries a handbag, and wears a three-cornered bit of headgear which is clearly a prototype mitre. Subliminal advertising for women bishops which has clearly played a major part in todays vote.

Fiona Bruce: carries a suitable air of authority and can hit a moving parishioner with an arched eyebrow at 60 paces. Good CV: Crimewatch for minor infringements of canon law, Call My Bluff for dealing with Reform and other lobby groups, and Antiques Roadshow for pretty much everything else.

Olivia Colman: already knows the CofE inside out from being a vicars wife in Rev., and now heads up something called Broad Church, a community of people with troubled histories who are struggling to get on with each other. Hang on, has she been consecrated already?

any more suggestions?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Latest CofE stats: Attendance by Diocese 2009-13.

The CofE published its latest attendance stats earlier this week, along with a slew of other tables and data sets on baptisms, weddings, funerals, growth, decline and pretty much anything else it could report on. There are various bits of commentary already out there on what it all means, or doesn't.

For several years I've been tracking comparative data by diocese, to see which are doing well (and we might learn from) and which aren't (ditto). The stats for the 20 years to 2010 are pretty gruesome reading, and best handled with prayer and half a pint of sherry. There's even some encouraging things in the latest set of data, despite the continuing overall drop in numbers.

The report itself suggests that for 'trend analysis', Adult Weekly attendance is a good indicator to use. So, here's my usual 'table' of how each Diocese has got on. There's been a recalculation of the stats recently (which were probably overestimating attendance and membership), so we can't go back any further than 2009 because it wouldn't be a like-for-like comparison.

Adult weekly attendance, 2009-2013.
Southwell & Nott'm
Ripon & Leeds
St. Albans
Sodor & Man
Bath & Wells
St. Edms & Ipswich
Total C of E

Over the 4 years to 2013, 9 dioceses grew, 1 was stable (though Sodor and Man is more the size of an average Deanery), and 33 declined. So shrinking Dioceses outnumber growing ones by about 4:1. To see Leicester, Southwell and particularly Liverpool growing is quite a turnaround from recent history. What are they doing differently that other dioceses could learn from?

London continues to be the engine room, with the growth of the last 20 years it is now twice the size of any other diocese bar Oxford. But maybe, just maybe, the days when London was the only growing Diocese in the CofE are over. And if those growing dioceses continue, they show that the CofE can grow in both urban and rural, Northern and Southern, richer and poorer areas. The CofE is starting to take church growth seriously, I would love to see a piece of work on what Diocesan best practice for growing the local church would look like. 

The figures for childrens attendance, which I'll do if there's popular demand, are less encouraging, with a big drop in 2012-13, and a faster rate of decline overall. But these are smaller and more volatile, and not as reliable as the adult figures. 

Everything I've said before about these stats still stands. What I wrote 2 1/2 years ago is still pretty much true now:

....the reality of decline is that we feel duty-bound to maintain the parish system and the local church building until it kills us. So the burden is never reduced, but it falls upon a smaller and smaller number of people.

4. Who is accountable for all this? Can we, will we, ask our bishops and clergy what they've been doing, and what they're doing now? Who is learning the lessons? Or are we (in Einsteins definition of madness) continuing to do exactly the same as before in the hope of a different result?

...6. I have the figures for childrens attendance and they are even scarier. If the church is relying on children as 'the future of the church' then we're looking at a church 60% the size of what it is at the moment.

7. The CofE has only two realistic options. The first is to start strategic planning for a church which will be 20-25% smaller in 2030, based on the continuation of current trends. The second is to shift significantly towards leadership, investment and structures which are focused on growth. There are currently incremental steps towards the latter (Fresh Expressions, mission funding, Bishops Mission Orders etc.), and a vast amount of 'make do and mend' towards the former. 

I don't know what it will take to provoke the necessary sense of crisis, the deepening of conviction that we need to tackle this issue, so that the CofE overcomes its sniffiness about 'bums on pews' and recognises that there's a reason the New Testament talks about the number of people being saved on a regular basis. It's because each of those people matters to God, and each of those people is someone we're called to reach with the gospel. The CofE is largely failing in that task, and until we have reckoned with that, we call into question our claim to be called a church at all. Are we actually doing the task our Master has set us?

, though under Justin Welby's leadership, with a number of excellent new bishops, and the national CofE starting to focus on growth and discipleship, perhaps the tide is turning. But it is still a heck of a long way out. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Angry Men

Paul Mason, Channel 4 economics editor, finally lets rip
Well done that man. Why are there no prosecutions for this?

Here's another one, if you think that Russell Brand is genuinely upset rather than just stirring for effect.

Opinion polls show the vote declining for both major political parties, it's almost as though the electorate doesn't trust anyone to run the country. We need more angry men, and women.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Big changes at my old vicar college

St Johns Nottingham, where I studied in the 1990s, has just announced some radical changes. Basically, they will stop taking in full time residential ordinands from 2016. Here's part of the statement.

The Church of England is currently reviewing its patterns of ministerial education, and St John’s recognises the call of this review to match the needs of the church with available resources. After many months of prayerful consideration, the college Council and Directorate are ready to take the bold step of remodelling the college to meet the future training needs of the church. This plan will see an end to the admission of any new full-time residential students at the Nottingham campus from September 2015, and the development of new models of ministerial formation and training for discipleship. Recruitment of new full and part-time students on all Midlands CYM and Extension Studies programmes will continue as normal. 

Sarum college in Salisbury did something similar a few years back, with the closure of the old Salisbury and Wells theological college, it's still the regional base for part-time training of ordinands, but runs a host of other training courses too.

It's sad to see the 'old' St Johns go fewer residential training centres means fewer choices for potential ordinands, but full-time training is costly, and a lot of training is much more effective when done in context. Probably the best bit of vicar training I did was the Arrow Leadership programme run by CPAS, which is designed for people in full-time Christian leadership already, and is designed to be done whilst 'in context'.

There's also something to be said for many of the trainers to be contextually based themselves. Academic faculties can be good and creative places, but they can also get detached from the realities of church leadership which they were intended to serve.

It's a courageous move, and I imagine there's been a lot of prayer and agonising. Fresh expressions of training?

Ian Paul, former tutor at St. Johns, has written on this in much more depth, and looks at the wider issues of theological training. Well worth a read.

Monday, November 10, 2014

New CofE stats: we did better than UKIP, but still not well enough.

An avalanche of new attendance stats published today by the CofE, along with a press release with some of the headlines. At some stage I'll do my usual Diocesan level number crunching, but with changes to the way the stats are calculated, that could be a challenge! (update: now published.)

The overall picture is still a gradual fall in attendance (1% year on year), declining churches outnumbering growing churches, but some encouraging bits too. There's an analysis of the background of 'joiners' and 'leavers': 67,000 people joined a CofE church in 2013. 27,000 of these were moving from another local church, or had moved house, but 40,000 weren't transfers of any sort, either returning to church after not being members for a while, or, for 30,000 of them, joining for the first time.

For perspective, this 40,000 who joined up during the year (rather than transferred) is not far off the total membership of UKIP, and slightly lower than that of the Libdems. Total CofE membership is 3x the combined membership of the Conservative and Labour parties.

Also worth pointing out that the CofE is finally catching up with itself: to get the 2013 data before the end of 2014 is quite unusual, especially as we only had the 2012 data 7 months ago. So well done to the people in the stats department. Now, any chance of getting it on a spreadsheet?

It's also good to see that we now have bishops aware of the Boiling Frog Scenario and sounding the alarm. We've had 1-2% year on year decline for too long to keep saying it's 'holding steady', rearranging pews on the Titanic is not an occupation with a future.

update: some good analysis by Norman Ivison here.
CofE comms blog, Bev Botting head of stats explains some of the data.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Early Christmas

Well, if John Lewis can do it....a couple of early Christmas goodies, for fellow vicars/church leaders whose December diaries are already starting to twitch.

The Nativity According to Chocolate: there are probably several versions of this around, here's mine. Big advantage of this Christmas talk is you can eat it all afterwards. It's about the only sermon I've preached more than once by popular demand.

Beatbox Bible: the source of the Beatbox nativity, there's now a range of Christmas-related raps to choose from based on the early chapters of Luke. I've just downloaded the Annunciation story for £3.23, to use in the Yeovil College carol service. The theme is 'Christmas Remixed' so it'll work a treat.

There, that's the reading and talk sorted. For anything else, try these links at Godspace.

UK Generosity Hotspots. Don't come South looking for charity.....

And the UK's most generous city is...

Sheffield is the most generous city in the UK. The city that gave the world cutlery, the Human League, Michael Vaughan, Jessica Ennis, and, um Nick Clegg MP. That's according to some research by a biscuit company, so it must be true.  It looks from the map as though people get stingier the further South and West they are. I was raised in Sheffield but now live in Yeovil; do the maths, but you're wasting your time asking me for a cuppa. I'm joking of course.

But its nice to see that a bit of basic civility and kindness is alive and well, in the North anyway.

‘In many situations, people get more of a buzz out of extending the hand of generosity to others than they do when being a recipient of the gesture themselves.’ said the neuropsychologist who did the research. 'It is more blessed to give than to receive', said Jesus a few years earlier. 

Ht Metro

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Milton Jones on faith, comedy and atheism

I stumbled across this Milton Jones interview whilst looking for something else on Youtube, like you do. A couple of interesting snippets about how he sees his faith and comedians who trash Christianity. I like what he says about the church as a gym at the end of the first clip: not a place to stay in and show off to the other members, but to get you ready to go out and do something.

Flash the 'Tache, Raise some Cash

What with all this excitement, I kind of lost track of things myself, but we are now 4 days into Movember, the mens health awareness campaign. I've already violated rule 1, but with the resurgence of the beard for some of us it will be Shavember before it becomes Movember. The charity prioritises prostate and testicular cancer and mens mental health.

If you're already caused out, what with world mental health day, Children in Need, Remembrance Day, making up a Shoebox for operation Christmas child etc., then just give a friendly nod to anyone who turns up at work this month looking like a dropout from the Village People.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Badvent Calendar

Ship of Fools has been running a competition to find the Advent calendar with least to do with the actual Christmas story (that'll be 99% of them), and most likely to make the baby Jesus cry.

The winners have been announced, and you can find them here, if you can stand the combination of Barbie and Ann Summers. (Thankfully not one and the same).

Alternatively, get a Real Advent Calendar, which has fairtrade chocolate and an actual attempt to tell the Christmas story. Or if you live near Hove, pop down to the Beach Hut Advent Calendar for an alternative live version.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


The author of the excellent Theologygrams blog turns out to be curate just down the road at Sherborne Abbey. The Abbey has an excellent lecture/seminar programme, including a good current series on faith and politics, and Richard Wyld is doing a gig on theologygrams in the new year.