Monday, December 21, 2015

'Take the risk of kindness'

"For me it’s about responding to the love we’re given by God at Christmas by offering it to those who might be feeling like they are on the margins, just like Jesus and his family were.
That could be inviting your neighbour around for dinner or a cup of tea. It could be striking up that conversation in the school playground. It could be simply sitting next to that person on the bus who others seem nervous about sitting with. Try it – take the risk, see what happens.
As Christians we are called to be people who take that first step, Who take the risk of kindness because we believe the other person is a gift to us from God, just as we can be a gift to them.
We’re called to be people who don’t accept narratives that seek to divide us as communities – wherever we hear them – because we have a better narrative: that God poured out his love for us by sending his son to be with us in a world of fear and danger."

great stuff from Justin Welby

'Panic Saturday': Rebranding the Week

Last year saw the unpleasant arrival of 'Black Friday' in the pre-Christmas calendar. This year it was the turn of 'Panic Saturday', or 'Saturday' as it's normally known. The last Saturday before Christmas joins an unspecified Friday in late November in the sheep-pen of branded dates.

Before we end up with every single date from November 1 - December 23 rebranded by the retail lobby (hand in glove with the mainstream media, who seem to happily parrot this stuff without ever challenging it), how about some alternative names which truly capture the spirit of Christmas: for example

Sharing Monday
Unselfish Tuesday
Hospitality Wednesday
Thankful Thursday
Phone-Call Friday (for ringing that person you've not spoken to for a while)
Kindness Saturday
Switch-Off Sunday (minimise screen time, maximise face time)

None of these have any money in them, which is one reason they probably won't catch on.

The other reason is that none of them generate the same sense of urgency as the branded days - there may not be another day to catch this bargain (which is cobblers of course, just wait until January). But there's always another day to be kind, unselfish, make the phone call etc. Good deeds are easier to leave for later, if the clamour for a bargain has a grip on our souls. And if it does have that grip, we need a buy-nothing season to wean us off it: cold turkey is for life, not just for Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Top 10 posts of 2015

The most-read posts of 2015 were, in no particular order:

The new year began with a blizzard of new thinking from the CofE. Yes, you read that right...
In Praise of the Green Report which was at the time just about the only positive thing online about the 'Green Report' into CofE leadership training.
'Green Shoots? Archbishops Introduce CofE to Smell of Coffee, on some fairly trenchant words from messrs Welby and Sentamu about the need for serious change in the CofE
CofE discussion papers and forums - an overview of the CofE's 'Reform and Renewal' papers and discussion forums

The Spirituality Spectrum: some helpful research which goes beyond the normal binary believer/nonbeliever pigeonholes

Fresh Expressions of Vicar: guest post from Andy Griffiths on church leadership, using Titus as a model for how we prepare and model leadership.

They Didn't Think it Through: Sunday Trading: My response to the so-called 'consultation' on Sunday trading - at the time of writing the government is still 'analysing your feedback'. Which doesn't explain why they tried to change the law before this analysis had been done. Window dressing, deception, broken election promises, in the pockets of the big retailers, one-sided presentation of the facts, rearrange these phrases into any paragraph of your choice.

Inappropriate Clergy Awards glad I managed to pen something vaguely amusing, though that's usually best left to Archdruid Eileen

London: Lessons for the Church of England: digest of a fascinating talk by Richard Chartes, Bishop of London, on lessons learned in his diocese that have led to the growth of the church in the capital.

When Should My Parish Church Be Demolished? Thought I'd get the Express in to write some of my post titles. Some pretty eye-opening stats on the number of tiny CofE congregations running huge listed buildings, It's easier to identify the problem than to know how to deal with it.

Would it be better if we didn't talk about Jesus? New research showing that when Christians share their faith it's more often off-putting than uplifting. Oddly, I'm in agreement with the Church Times on this - we need to spend more time looking at the findings before we come up with recommendations for action. The answer to the question is, of course, no, but we have to find a better way of talking about Jesus. I'd recommend this for starters.

the main reason for most of these being clicked on more than the rest was a link from Thinking Anglicans, so a big thankyou to the team over there. And fair play to them for linking to a blogger from a different perspective - I don't find it easy to be in disagreement with people, but we need to learn to disagree well, in the church, and in society at large. And for that we need practice....

thankyou for all the comments, shares tweets etc. and bless you for reading

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lords Prayer 'ad': Investigation by Equality and Human Rights Commission


The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today announced that the issues raised by Digital Cinema Media’s (DCM) decision not to show a Church of England advert about the Lord’s Prayer in cinemas, will be examined as part of a major Commission report.
This report, examining the adequacy of the law protecting freedom of religion or belief, will be published early next year. The DCM decision has generated significant public concern about freedom of speech.
The Commission, the national expert in equality and human rights law, has also offered its legal expertise for the purpose of intervening in the case should the Church take legal proceedings against DCM.
The Commission has written to DCM to highlight the importance of Britain’s long tradition of freedom of expression and to reiterate its concerns about the justification for not showing the advertisement being that it risked offending audiences.  There is no right in Britain not to be offended, and respect for people’s right to express beliefs with which others might disagree is the mark of a democratic society.
Most of me is bothered by the fact that we can't screen the Lords Prayer before a 2 hour film about a universal supernatural force, in amongst adverts encouraging us to sue, kill people on a screen, spend more money than we've got, and consume products that are bad for our health. Which of these is most offensive? But the rest of me is bothered about opening the gates to overtly religious advertising. It's a blurred line, as most movies are advertising products and worldviews themselves. Legal minefield? In amongst all this its clear that DCM have made a pigs ear of it, having initially okayed the Lords Prayer clip, and then come up with poor reasoning for pulling it. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Merry Crispmas

Here's an attempt to retell the Christmas story using crisps, like you do. Any feedback would be helpful, as it's still in the baking stage! First outing will be this weekend. The crisps themselves are in a pile in my study: the trick will be laying them out in the right order, or it could easily turn into Tommy Coopers hat story

Crisps – Christmas talk 2015
How does Good King Wenceslas like his Pizza?
Deep pan, crisp and even

Something amazing has happened. The world has changed, it has a whole new flavour.
The one who made everybody, now has a body
The one who made the sun bites into food
The one true God, the real McCoy, was born as a child, to show us the way to live, and the way to God.

Let me tell you how it happened.
One day, in a quiet village in Israel, to a young woman called Mary
An angel appeared from nowhere
Mary quavered
‘Don’t be afraid’ said the angel, you’ve been chosen, you’ll be the mother of God’s own son,
he’ll be a Sensation, he will save people, some people will think he’s nuts but he’ll be God’s promised king, the one everyone has been waiting for.

Fast forward 9 months, and there’s a new tax, set by the government, which hits the poor hardest. Sounds familiar.  Everyone has to Walker long way, to their place of birth, to register and pay.

From Nazareth, where Mary and Joseph lived, to Bethlehem, was a journey of 80 miles. On foot. Pregnant. They were pretty frazzled when they got to Josephs town of Bethlehem.

They knocked at the first Door it o pened onto a full house: no room here. And again, and again.

The Bible says that Jesus was born and put in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. Often people kept their animals in a section of their house overnight. Maybe the innkeeper, with all the guest room full, invited Mary and Joseph into his house, to stay as personal guests. You know how a crisp packet can feel full, but in fact there’s lots of space? It’s like that with us, our lives are full of stuff, but like the innkeeper there’s always room for Jesus.

Lets add a bit more flavour to the story:  shepherds on a hill outside Bethlehem. Salt of the earth. Watching over their lambs. Chilli in the night air. Maybe bacon something over a fire.  Night security men, not much of a steak in the world of the powerful.

But they soon turned chicken. A light appeared in the sky. Wotsit doing? it’s getting closer, it’s getting brighter, it’s… angels! ‘don’t be afraid’, said the angels, as they quavered too. Good news, your saviour is born down there in Bethlehem, Jesus, the King.
So they skipped off to see the child and worship, and spread the news.

Meanwhile far to the east, men who studied the stars saw a strange sign in the sky: Saturn – the planet of Israel, close to Jupiter – planet of kings, So close they looked like a single star. A new king in Israel? There were great stories, great prophecies. So they packed up gifts – not nick nacks , but great treasures, and set out across the deep ridged desert.

Many weeks later, Dry and roasted by the sun, they reached the royal palace in Jerusalem. This is where you’d find a king. But not the right king. This was the palace of Herod, who had his own family killed when they looked like being more popular than he was. Herod was a monster, munch-en (mention) a new king and he’d not be happy.
Herod hoped the wise men wouldn’t Twig: ‘let me know where he is so that I can worship him too.’ But they weren’t called wise men for nothing, and they kept Jesus a secret.

Just a few miles further, and the star showed them where Jesus was. They gave him gifts: incense, myrrh, and Gold, in Wonder at this child. the promised king. The Son of God.

What are crisps made from? (potatoes)
Put 1 small potato in the ground, it grows and makes loads more. And so from that small beginning, now the .Christmas story is told all over the world, and millions of people know Jesus, follow him, love him. All sorts of shapes and sizes and flavours. Jesus, God’s gift to the world.

We’ve discovered that Jesus is worth all we can give, the love of Mary, the faithfulness of Joseph, the excitement of the shepherds, the song of the angels, the precious gifts of the wise men.

The truth is crisp

This Christmas, taste, and see for yourself. 

Acapella Sing-Off: 'Mary Did You Know?'

Mary did you know that one day lots of acapella songs would be sung about you?

Peter Hollens v Pentatonix.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Run, Fat Vicar, Run

Cassock, dog collar, running shoes. I've probably set myself a stupid challenge in trying to combine that outfit with the Yeovil Half Marathon in March, but it's all in a good cause. If you get anything at all out of reading my blog, then please do consider sponsoring me

I'm planning to run the 13 and a bit miles in full clergy outfit to raise £2020 towards a refit of our church (600th birthday in 2020). Neither the congregation nor the community fits into it any more. Either we adapt, or we move out, but it's such a beautiful and prayerful place that abandoning it for a shed on an industrial estate isn't an option.

Not that I'm competitive, but this chap up the road did the full London Marathon, and raised more than 5x what I'm aiming at. He also looks like he's fit enough. Me? Well, I've done 21k on the exercise bike...... 

Monday, December 07, 2015

This Years Christmas Services - St. James Yeovil

'It's your busy time of year' - it's a different kind of busy, but here's our Christmas services this year

Sat 12th  4pm Christingle service, St. James Preston Rd, with Christingle oranges for everyone and a special charity collection for the Childrens Society
Sat 12th 4-6pm Messy Church Christingle, St. Peters Coronation Avenue

Sun 13th 10.30am Christmas Cafe Service, Abbey Community Centre

Fri 18th 4pm Christingle service, Palmers Garden Centre, with the Salvation Army Band. Come early for a seat, usually standing room only.

Sun 20th 4pm, 6.30pm Carols by Candelight St James Preston Rd, with mulled wine and mince pies between the two services

Christmas Eve
3pm and 5pm Nativity Service, St. James Preston Road
11pm Holy Communion, St. James

Christmas Day: 10.30am Family Communion, St. James

Those are all the public ones, there's also 11 other gigs involving nurseries, schools, Scouts, playgroups and the local Childrens Centre. All in all it'll be somewhere between 1500-2000 people involved in 'all of the above'. Which is all very exciting.

A Christmas talk telling the nativity story through chocolate ended up being repeated by popular demand (I think the kids just thought they might get some of the choccy at the end), this year the challenge is to tell the story using crisps. It won't be deep, and probably fairly uneven, but at least Wenceslas would be happy with 1/3 of it. .....Herod hoped the wise men wouldn’t Twig: ‘let me know where he is so that I can worship him too.’   still needs quite a bit of work!!

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Multi-Coloured Friday


I like the idea that songs are a gift
"I never sit down and say, 'I'm gonna write a song about this person and this event'," he said as we passed the Venice skate park. "If I did do that, it would never make it, because that would be a song that you crafted rather than received."

And I asked every book
Poetry and chime
"Can there be breaks
In the chaos of times?"
Oh, thanks God
You must've heard when I prayed
Because now I always
Want to feel this way

(Amazing Day)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Extreme Advent

Add a new level of reality to Advent: starting at one end of your street, call at one house a day, in sequence, open their door, and help yourself to some chocolate.

We live at number 3, and we're stocking up for Thursday.

If we're going to miss the point of Advent, lets at least make it interesting. Who knows what kind of great conversations might happen?

Oh Dave, Make Haste to Help Us?

Given the patchy record of foreign interventions in recent decades - an Iraq for every Kosovo - it makes no sense that only 1 day of debate is being allowed for the decision to bomb Syria. Why the rush? If it's the right decision, then taking longer over it will reveal the rightness. It's hard to make a good decision in a hurry. 

I'm bemused that we have a majority of MPs prepared to vote in favour of this: we have Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq as cautionary tales of military action taken without an exit strategy or planning for what happens afterwards. Every bomb dropped will mean millions in reconstruction costs further down the tracks, but the government isn't even offering a promise of rebuilding to the civilians of Syria who will have to live with the mess after Daesh are history. 

"We don’t really know what we want to achieve other than to hear the sound of bombs falling on Raqqa, thus satisfying the need to do something. We can’t win if we don’t know what winning looks like." (Giles Fraser)

Ian Paul offers 7 good reasons to really take our time over this, and consider if there is a less sexy, but more effective, way to tackle Daesh. 

Cameron has been itching to bomb Syria for a while, and the Paris attacks have given him the reason/excuse/pretext he needs. But the Paris attacks don't really change any of the military logic. If, as is frequently announced, 7 similar attacks have been foiled on the UK this year, then the threat has always been there, it's just that this time they weren't caught by the security services. The fact that one attack was successful, instead of joining with the other failures, doesn't change any of the maths around ISIS in Syria. If it didn't make sense a month ago, it doesn't make sense now.