Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Wish I could be like Isaac Watts

Had a great Christmas with family and some good services over the holiday. Boxing Day was very low attendance wise, just 35 of us due to Christmas services and the lethal ice that was covering town, but still a lovely feeling of being family together.

Well, after a day off yesterday I am briefly back in the saddle today for a (quite a) few hours in order to be able to take the rest of the week off. But I had to do this today or a) take it with me when I visit friends, or b) have nothing to preach when I get back on Sunday.

As I was looking for the words of a different hymn, I found this classic first verse of an Isaac Watts hymn. It's a pretty good argument for the updating of the language in hymns and translation of the Bible.

Blest is the man whose bowels move
And melt with pity to the poor;
Whose soul, by sympathizing love,
Feels what his fellow saints endure.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Yawn, yawn Pope - been there done that

I see that the Pope did the Radio 4 Thought For The Day today. This is clearly a big news story but I have to say that I beat him to it by at least 13 years (the memory is a little hazy).

Mine was at Word Alive, a conference for students (in those days) and I was nominated by the people I worked for (UCCF) because I had played around at student radio at one time. Looking back it was a tremendous risk on their part, not sure how playing the Milltown Brothers on university radio was any help for the task in hand.

So it came to pass that I had a carefully scripted and timed Thought for the Day recorded live in front of several thousand people at The Gaiety Theatre, Skegness as part of the student celebration. A nerve wracking experience that took way longer than it should. I remember the director telling us we weren't saying 'Amen' correctly at the end of the prayer so he recorded doing it lots of different ways. We also had to record a period of silence in case the Queen Mother or someone similar died overnight, before the broadcast went out.

UCCF representing students from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, we had representatives from each nation doing the prayers and the splendid Geoff Baker led the worship. The theatre has since been demolished and Butlins (did I mention this was where we were?) have redeveloped the site.

We still go to the conference, now New Word Alive, located in North Wales, and now open to all. It's a positive oasis in the calender and an annual event that we prioritise in the calender every year. Does the whole family the world of good.

Actually, as I write this I realise that I didn't really do Thought for the Day at all, it was Morning Service. The Pope wins after all. But has he ever done Morning Service in Skegness?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Billy Graham on Christmas

"But when I looked into the crib or the manger and saw that little baby who was going to rise to become the greatest teacher that ever lived, to die on the cross for my sins, to know that I'll be forgiven because of what He was doing, it absolutely transformed Christmas for me."

Billy Graham on Christmas from an interview with Fox News, 20/12/10.

Fuller interview at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34303

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Animated Jesus Storybook Bible

Another resource that would be useful for a Christmas service. Too late for me to use this year but could be useful to someone out there?

The Jesus Storybook Bible is a fabulous piece of work. It tells in about 40 stories the story of the Bible and is a particular favourite because of the beautiful illustrations and the fact that it shows how the whole of the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) fit together and point to Jesus. It is so good that about three years ago we read the stories one a week in church to give young and old a simple Bible overview. Probably about time we did it again, actually.

Well, now it comes with moving parts. This is a clip I found telling some of the Christmas story. I do hope this means that they are animating the whole thing. Click the top right hand link under Our Friends Eclectic to see it for yourself.

Monday, 20 December 2010

BBC's Nativity

Watched the first of the BBC's The Nativity this evening, it looks promising. Written by Tony Jordan, better known for his work on Eastenders, Life on Mars and others, it seems that researching and writing the nativity story changed him - even though there's no chance of him attending a church this Christmas. There's an interesting interview with him in the Telegraph on the subject:


The Tardis and the Stable

A friend has posted the following quote on his Facebook page and it's very useful for a service this Christmas.

'There is your hope lying in a manger. He is much bigger than he looks.'
J Wilson (no idea who he/she is I'm afraid).

I think it ties in nicely (or could be made to!) with this quotation from C.S.Lewis' The Last Battle.

"It seems, then," said Tirian, smiling himself, "that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places."

"Yes," said the Lord Digory. "Its inside is bigger than its outside."

"Yes," said Queen Lucy. "In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world." It was the first time she had spoken, and from the thrill in her voice, Tirian now knew why. She was drinking everything in even more deeply than the others. She had been too happy to speak.

It was this quote that has got me thinking and so I have called the Christmas Day sermon, "The Tardis and the Stable". I remember another friend using line about the Timelord and the Lord of Time; will be nicking that too!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Carol Service resources

This is a bit late but a couple of pieces that I am using in church over the next few days.

The New Zealand kids nativity is a great piece of video for a Carol Service. I am using it in the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and it even comes in HD.

The quality of the Lego Nativity is not so high but it's engaging and I plan to use it this afternoon in what is usually one of our biggest services of the year (only our Kids Holiday Club Service is bigger). With all the ice on the ground it will be interesting to see if that is the case this year.

You can see both videos by clicking the link under "Our Friends Eclectic" in the top right hand bit of the page.

Saturday, 18 December 2010


Today we woke to the biggest snowfall the town has seen for many years. Only about five inches but I've heard people say it was the most for a good 25 years. It's a wonderful novelty but will really knock a hole in our congregations for the main Carol Services tomorrow.

Good to get out in it with my camera.
Odd to see snow on the beach.

The morning service is going to be led by two of these yobs. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Digital Nativity

Here's another great resource for a Carol Service, courtesy of the interweb thing. What would the nativity look like if played out through social media? Thanks to the Baptist Union for highlighting this.


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

How To Find Jesus!

Made me laugh - could well be finding it's way into a sermon this season.

Churches fit GPS to Baby Jesus to stop nativity thefts
Updated: Sunday, 05 Dec 2010, 8:46 AM EST
Published : Sunday, 05 Dec 2010, 8:46 AM EST

(FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - Churches in the US are fitting their baby Jesus statues with GPS trackers to stop them being stolen from their Christmas nativity scenes, myFOXny.com reported Friday.

Company BrickHouse Security is providing free GPS trackers to churches and communities across the country.

Religious institutions and nonprofit organizations can enroll in a program to get a free GPS tracker to install inside a baby Jesus statue. Jewish organizations can also fit them to their Menorah candle holders for Hanukkah.

The company said the tracker means that if a thief makes off with the cherished item the church, synagogue, or other group can log on via computer or mobile phone to track the missing items.

St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church in Old Bridge, New Jersey -- about 40 miles (64km) southwest of New York City -- installed the device after suffering from thefts and vandals in the past.

"There's been no attempt of theft since we announced that we're tracking our Jesus," said Alan Czyewski of St. Ambrose Church. "This is our third year, and we love this. People are now well aware of our GPS Jesus, so they leave it alone."

Read more: http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/offbeat/church-protects-manger-with-gps-jesus-20101203-akd

It's A Wonderful Life

Last night was the final Reel Issues of the year and I was delighted to have 83 come along to watch It's a Wonderful Life, easily a record attendance. What a delight it was to see the film in it's original black and white on the big screen in such great quality - digitally remastered and sent to the cinema on a hard disk - it looked stunning.

Watching it in a cinema was a great atmosphere and I had forgotten how funny it was, as well as (obviously) it being so moving. My friend Andy lead the discussion afterwards and pointed out that many of the themes were similar to Up (our first film in the series) and also, at the end of the discussion, drew out how it is a truly Christmas film, featuring a lead character who repeatedly sacrifices himself and empties himself of everything for the benefit of all those around him. He put it better than that though.

We intend to continue Reel Issues in February and asked for feedback last night on ideas for films that we could show. Given that the idea is to discuss the big ideas and moral and spiritual themes in a film it was amusing to get one suggestion that we should show "musicals - i.e. Sound of Music" or "comedy - i.e. Dad's Army". Clearly need to work on communicating what we are trying to do!

It has been freezing cold here with such heavy frosts that the the grass and trees have been covered and not thawed out during the day. It looks like it has snowed and so it felt a bit like Christmas before we watched the film. Afterwards, so much more so...

Friday, 3 December 2010

And the winner is...


Last time I posted I mentioned that the standard of the pictures at the camera club is dauntingly good. Here is a link to the picture that won the competition on Monday, a truly stunning image.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

On a freezing beach this afternoon

Bitterly cold on the beach this afternoon, I managed to be gloves off for a few pictures for just six minutes. After that, very numb indeed. I've just joined a camera club and am in turn inspired and despairing when I see some of the work of the other guys - some seriously talented people there. But I think I am learning a little from them and one of those is the effect of a simple filter (an ND grad apparently) on this scene. As you see from the before and after, it makes a huge difference to the sky in this one and black and white suits it better too.
I've a long way to go but after this afternoon no-one can ever accuse me of just being a fair-weather photographer.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Christmas Flash Mob

I do love this. It's almost a radical act - a guerilla raid on consumerism in the Christmas season. It made me cry, though that might be partly explained by a lack of sleep after staying up too late watching cricket.

Take a look at the link at the top right hand side of the page to see for yourself.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Funny fishermen

I have been reading The Message as a way of keeping my own bible reading fresh recently and came across these words from Mark 1, when Jesus called his first followers:

"A dozen yards or so down the beach, he (Jesus) saw the brothers James and John, Zebedee's sons. They were in the same boat, mending their fishnets."
Either a wonderful Christian innocence in Eugene Peterson (the translator) or it doesn't have the same connetations in America.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Far too shirty!

True story. A week ago I was in the study finishing some work while my wife was in the next room, putting away clean washing. She calls through to say that there is no more drawer and wardrobe space for her to put my shirts away. I shout back not to disturb me as I am writing a sermon on greed.

On reflection I realised I had a choice. Tear down my wardrobe and build bigger ones (or at least put together bigger ones) or do the right thing and redistribute the wealth.

So I had a sort through this morning and am as embarrassed as I was surprised to find that I was able to lose 23 shirts and still have plenty left to wear. Felt pleased with myself until I counted what was left. I still had too many, so a second cull was called for.

This time I got expert assistance; my wife helped. Another dozen were added to the pile. I am rather ashamed that I was able to be rid of 35 shirts. I still have plenty.

The result? I find out some things about myself. Last week I had over 60 shirts. I am surprised because I think you'd be fairly hard pressed to find anyone who would describe me as fashion conscious. I guess I have aquired shirts here and there and not thrown out or donated at anything like the same rate. I am embarrassed because I realise that this is an example of greed, something I don't like to associate with myself. Sometimes the evidence is a lot less attractive than what we like to picture in our heads.

I dare you to count your shirts. You may be almost as bad as me.

The picture is of a man who came up with a different solution and decided to wear all 120 shirts at the same time.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Japan, Heaven 17 and Joy

There is plenty wrong with the internet. Only yesterday a woman called Phyllis wanted to be my friend on Facebook and sent me a naked profile picture to encourage me. I declined but did report it. Possibly more destructive for me is the opportunity to waste time on it - browsing, shopping, blogging...

But one of the ways the internet is fantastic is in finding stuff that someone has an interest in that few others have. Thanks to the www. I was able to trace and purchase an album that very few people bought at all, let alone on CD. Neither is it available as an MP3 download - at least not legally. And now I have replaced my cassette copy of the final Heaven 17 album (until they reformed) with the CD.

All this is thanks to a fellow with an unpronouncable name in some corner of Japan who cleared out some of his CDs one day - quite possibly at his wife's insistance. (Some things are pretty universal). About a tenner and just 7 days later it lands on my doorstep. The result is a singular joy - in that no-one else in my family shares it - and a slight feeling of guilt that I still know most of the words a mere 22 years on.

Coming soon - I hope - Pleasure One, the CD before, which lost the race to arrive first, coming from Washington DC. Can't wait.

The top right hand column has one of the tracks linked to it. Nothing to see but it'll give you something to listen to.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mad old woman and the men's books

No the heading has nothing to do with my wife's birthday this week.

With a little time to kill today I found myself in Bridgwater Indoor Market, possibly the most depressing place in Somerset. Even then, it's hard to pass by a pile of books that need to be browed through and I was leafing through when the volunteer (I was in a charity shop) informed me that the men's books were on the shelves 'over there'.

Slightly wary of what I might find, I saw that she was directing me to pile of thrillers and war books. Some odd choices in amongst them - Harry Potter a men's book? - but they were all of a genre.

In the end I made my choice, a Will Self novel that was in the other section. Tongue in cheek, I asked if it would be okay to buy it, even though it was in the women's section. "Whatever, I don't care if you're AC/DC", came the reply.

Good old Bridgwater.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


Went to play golf today on my day off but the rain beat us and so I've been mooching around the house instead. Thanks to my good friend Catherine I found out how to make one of these, all taken last month in sunny Brixham. Makes me want to revisit soon.

All the stuff to play with photos was in the bighugelabs website. A fun thing for a rainy day.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Alice Cooper - Odd but heartening

Stuck in traffic yesterday on the way back from hospital visiting, Alice Cooper was talking on the Richard Bacon show. One of the questions was asking him about his religious faith and it was odd but very heartening to hear him describe himself as the Prodigal Son, how he reads the Bible every day, believes it is the word of God and how he would make a lousy god.

I thought he came over really well, you can check it out for yourself on http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/dailybacon.

It's under "Alice Cooper and Bill Bailey", starts at 12 minutes 55 seconds and lasts four minutes.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Playlist for Changing Lanes

More fun preparing for the Reel Issues evening this month. I am slightly apprehensive that we are showing the 15 rated Changing Lanes this time but it's a great film that brings out some interesting moral / spiritual / ethical questions.

As usual I have prepared a playlist for pre-film. A pointless exercise, I suspect, as I am probably the only one who recognises the songs or realises that they are themed. But it's light relief on a Monday morning and I enjoy it. Note the intrusion of Belle and Sebastian, a relatively modern beat combo.

Always Crashing In The Same Car - David Bowie
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word - Elton John
Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car - U2
Crash - The Primitives
I Love My Car - Belle and Sebastian

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Another lovely day on Burnham beach

After church this morning I tried to photograph the speedboats racing in the bay but they were way out of range. Quite like this though, after some Photoshop fiddling.

Exeter City 2 Brentford 4

A crazy game, people. It's the often disbelieved claim of the fan that we was robbed but man, this one took the biscuit. Awful goalkeeping cost us this one and yet it would have been six had he not saved two penalties. The stats show that we were all over them, more shots on target, more off target, more corners, blah, blah, blah. But what matters is scoring goals and we conceded three very soft ones.

An extract written by a Brentford fan confirms:

"well what can i say.

two pints of guiness and time to reflect with a pub full of exeter city fans.

Basically outplayed and outpassed for 80 mins. won 4 : 2 had one disallowed and missed two penalties. Who said this is a strange game.

Came away thinking we had got away with it and really deserved nothing from the game.

Three points is three points and on we go. Unfortunately it was exeters fpptball i would rather watch each week.

Not being negative but very honest after a very strange game.

I would suggest Andy Scott does the lottery tonight though."

Never mind, hey? Onwards and upwards. Let's see, who's next? Ah, top of the table Brighton away on Tuesday. Hmmm...
I consoled myself with taking a few pictures. In order, Ryan Harley - playmaker signed from Weston Super Mare; Liam Sercombe; Jamie Cureton and his second (consolation) goal.

Church Weekend Away

Had a great weekend away last week as half of the church decamped to Paignton. We had a great time together, my friend Chris Spinks doing an excellent job of teaching some of what the Bible tells us about prayer. In the week that followed I am encouraged that I have had several conversations with people who are trying to get into new habits - indeed I am one of those people. Not that I had a conversation with myself but you get what I am trying to say.

We were also blessed with a musician who led us in some new songs - so nice to sing live songs rather than CDs as we usually do in church services. And to top it off we all went along to a terrific service at Brixham Baptist Church on the Sunday morning. It was a combined family service for harvest and the festival of the sea and was SO creative that you really did not know what was going to be happening next - a rare thing indeed in a church service.

Followed the weekend away with a few days in Brixham, a truly beautiful place to relax in. And play with a camera at.

Replanting a church

Despite being au fait with the concept of church planting - indeed having been involved with helping plant one - I had never heard of replanting a church until recently. Most of the church leadership were on a day conference on Reading and reaching your community when Martin Robinson used this term. As it became clearer in the course of things, this is when the church undergoes changes to get back on course in terms of it's mission to the community it is in.

One of the churches present shared a story of how they made some structural changes to the fabric of the building which marked a new beginning to who they were and what they were doing as a church and it struck us very clearly that this is what we had done as well.

We were left a legacy as a church just after I got here which meant we could update our building. We took out the pews, installed chairs, rid ourselves of some 'sacred furniture', removed the pulpit. All the kind of thing that religious people hate you for doing but nearly all the negative comments we had were from people who don't come to our church and like to look in on dark wooden pews and panelling when they visit every umpteen years.

Without intending or realising it, it seems we put a new stamp on the place and it has signalled a new start for us, or a replanting if you like. I am quite excited to find that we have been doing this without knowing and it helps us to make sense of what we are doing. We have a long way to go but without having done all this we would still be fighting tradition at every corner. Instead we can move on and fight battles that are worth fighting.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Made in Dagenham

Terrific film. Really enjoyed it. If you like Calendar Girls then you'll like this. A good British cast, funny, moving, thought-provoking. To think that the battle for equal pay was still raging when I was a toddler. What did people think that they were doing, paying women less for doing the same? Seems like a weird thing from this distance.

The Hurt Locker

Anyone know how this finished? We started it last night and then got scared and couldn't finish it.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

We own our football club

Living with a Liverpool fan, it's hard not to have some sympathy for the farce that teh club have been through over the last few weeks. Seems all is done and dusted now - at least for a while.

Down a couple of divisions I support a team that is owned by their own supporters - the only trust owned team in the football league. It came out of similar mismanagement some years ago and now, safely promoted from non-league football, Exeter City seem to be punching above their weight as we rise to 7th this evening in League 1. It's a family orientated club with a genuis manager and a great crop of players. The side has been built steadily over the past five years or so and there seems to be an eye on the long term stability of the club. Being owned by the fans works well and it is a joy to support.

It seems to work well for Barcelona too.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Any excuse for cake

On Sunday we celebrated 167 years of being on the premises, though the church is at least 12 years older, having met in a house at least as early as 1831. So we had cake and are in the happy position of needing two cakes to make sure everyone got some. Interestingly we have at least two people who have been at the church for more than half of those 167 years!

Southampton 2 Tranmere 0

On Saturday I defied the camera ban at St Marys (without realising it) and took a few pictures of the game I was at. Only took my wee compact but I hadn't remembered that the club had controversially banned press photographers from the ground in order to do all photography in house. So I got a few snaps before a steward came over and had a word. Laughable really considering that we were shoved up in the gods. This picture is taken from my allocated seat even though eagle-eyed viewers will see that there were a few spare seats closer to the action. Of course, by shoving the away fans up and out of the way, you minimise any potential problems and make it harder for people to get behind their team.
I was in the away end to support a Tranmere supporting friend, I was his chaplain really. His team were woeful, Soton were excellent. Don't be fooled by their start to the season, I'd be very surprised if they aren't promoted this year. Tranmere, I fear, won't escape the drop for a second successive year.

Anyhow, bids for an exclusive action shot from the game will be considered - this is Soton's number 19, ex-Exeter City man Danny Seabourne in action. Not that he had a lot to do on the day. Taken on maximum zoom from up there, you can see why they were worried!
PS - Nigel Adkins new positive thinking regime has yet to reach the man who operates the tannoy. First song played on entering the ground - miserable and (sometimes) magnificent Morrisey.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Truman Show

Had a great night last night, watching this film in a proper cinema. The print quality wasn't great but then it is 12 years old. I was surprised at how few people had seen it before, which might tell you something of the kind of place we are in. Some struggled with what the film was about, some loved it but UP was definately more popular last month.

In the end, is it a film that is sympathetic to the Christian faith or is it antagonistic? I think it can be argued either way. It probably comes down to whether you believe Christof to be representative of God or not - and again there is ambiguity there. He claims to be the creator but only of a show - not Truman himself. Perhaps the 139 on the sail of Truman's boat is deeply significant - refering to the Psalm. It certainly fits with the conversation between Christof and Truman that follows. Truman 'dies' in a crucified pose but is resurrected and ascends the steps to... where or what? Is the parallel with CS Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader deliberate? Or does the film argue that a True Man only finds how to truly live on turning his back on God? Or is it post-modern and just playing with images?

A number said that they felt they needed to watch it again. I have already promised to lend the DVD. We had a good conversation on the night and 54 came to watch, which was pleasing. Wondering what they will make of Changing Lanes next month. Expecting a smaller crowd for that, less well-known and a 15 for strong language.

Finally, great topical joke in Truman - newspaper headline that reads, "Who Needs Europe!" on the day we beat the US in the Ryder Cup. Good film.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Playlist for The Truman Show

We have the second of our Reel Issues films at the cinema tonight and this is what I have chosen for the playlist beforehand.

Real, Real, Real - Jesus Jones
Absolute Reality - The Alarm
Somebody Up There Likes Me - David Bowie
Watching - The Thompson Twins
Even Better Than The Real Thing - U2
Once In A Lifetime - Talking Heads (You may tell yourself, this is not your beautiful house, with your beautiful wife...)

Looking forward to it!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Highs and Lows

Bit of a roller-coaster weekend. Saturday started at 5am to finish some stuff for a wedding and Sunday's service. The wedding was fantastic. A couple who have been with us about a year and such a joyful occasion. This is the second wedding I have taken at this church, I hate to think how many funerals - not a good ratio. Really thrilled for them. Some of the church take a special pride in seeing their minister in a suit for once.

The afternoon was very sunny and warm and the family sit outside to watch the boy at a tennis tournament. There is a McEnroe moment or two and he's now saving for a new racquet. He is back on an even keel soon enough though and we get back for a good Indian meal with old friends to round off a really good day.

Sunday is mixed. I have to confess to some disappointment at Back to Church Sunday. We have ninety attend the service, which is better than average for us, but none of the ten people / families I have invited come along. In the end I think we have five extras attend due to being invited for BTCS. It doesn't seem many but without knowing how many were asked it's hard to know if this is a sign that people didn't feel able or inclined to invite friends or whether their friends (like mine) didn't fancy it. From what many think of as "church", I don't blame them and maybe it's a sign of the size of the task that we face.

Evening service is okay, we are boosted by four holiday makers but some noticeable absentees due to it being the informal prayer and praise. Our youth discussion group afterwards is loud and seems to make little progress. I come back with a headache and feel low. This is not my greatest strength and I need to work harder and prepare better for it.

Monday brings some refreshment - meet and pray with an old chum who offers some perspective, which in my tiredness I have lost. Listen to some good sermons read some helpful things and then Tuesday brings fine weather and a game of golf on my day off.

Glad to be refreshed and thinking straighter. Need to be - six talks and two groups to lead in the following five days.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Back to Church Sunday

This Sunday we taking part in the national Back to Church Sunday campaign. We have never done this before but thought it was worth a go. The idea is very simple, we invite friends, neighbours, and family to our church service and make them welcome. Hardly rocket science.

In our context we are aware that the church some people left, or have never been to, is not the church they will find if they come on Sunday. For some that will be a bad thing, others will love it. It will not look like Mr Bean Goes To Church, which I intend to show during the service.

Some research by Tearfund estimated that 3,000,000 people in the UK would come to church if invited by a friend. So let's see. Exciting!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Long Away

It's a plot to make parents feel older. My son's homework in music this week was to answer questions on Queen. At last, homework I can help him with! Offered to play him some songs but he seemed pretty underwhelmed.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Exeter City 2 Peterboro United 2

What a game! Peterboro arrived top of the table and with a fearsome scoring record. So best not gift them one, hey lads? Ahhh. Lots of early pressure from the away team as they pressed and a mix up between centre back Troy Archibald-Henville (imagine the cost of that on the back of a shirt!) and keeper Paul Jones sees an own goal give the Posh the lead. One nil is the score at half-time but Exeter are easing back into the game and finish the half strongly.

Second half and Exeter have the upper hand. Goals from new boy Nardiello and very old boy Jamie Cureton see Exeter take a deserved lead before an equaliser from Peterboro with about ten minutes to go. From then on it's described as "playground football" as the teams take it in turns to attack, looking for that illusive winner. The very last action has Archibald-Henville's headers hacked off the line and at the final whistle the opposing benches are all smiles and handshakes - you just know that they have enjoyed a thrilling game of football. My man of the match was Richard Duffy at centre half, a terrific performance with some very timely tackles when we were under the cosh in teh first half. A Wales recall cannot be far off.

Slightly worrying is that the attendance was a little down on normal. The Exeter Chiefs are at home and now that they are a Premiership rugby team, has this made a difference? Away support was lower than usual too but then it's some trip down. More games like this and attandance should hold up though, terrific entertainment.
It's been a good start to the season and my prediction at the beginning of the season (which raised some scorn in the family) that we'd be somewhere between half-way and just missing out on the play-offs this season, may not be so far out. We'll see. Early days. Happy days.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Terry Jones and Intolerant Christians

It was planned months ago but last Sunday I found myself preaching on Intolerant Christians in the week that a pastor in the States was planning to burn the Koran.

The series is on objections that people have to the Christian faith and week two was called, "I'd like to believe but religious people are too intolerant". Good old Tel provided me with a perfect illustration, though I wish he hadn't.

By way of contrast I spoke on John 8.1-11 and the woman caught in adultery. Can't help but marvel again how Jesus said to her, "I don't condemn you". How different we often are. Grace is so outrageous. Caught in bed with a guy and Jesus tells her this!

I had one person walk out - to later return to tell me I was off-beam on this. Trouble is, he missed the second point - Jesus tells her to go home and stop living this way. There's a Charles Spurgeon quote (think it is him) that says that if a person is scandalised by grace to the extent that they think you are in danger of being too soft on sin, then you are probably preaching it well. So I hope it was that. But, of course, I may be kidding myself.

I suspect that people like Terry Jones would be picking up rocks. It isn't the way of Jesus.

Old Toys

Like lots of other people I have boxes that follow me from place to place which never get unpacked. Following the need to clear out a few things in order to make the house attractive to potential buyers I took the decision to get rid of my old Subbuteo bits and pieces. All that this required on my wife's part was about 15 years (reasonably) gentle encouragement.

So I photographed them (to general family amusement) and listed them on eBay. They aren't laughing anymore. Everything was sold. Some of it for silly money. Four Leeds players for £8.49 for example. The nine Feyenoord players that survived those heady European nights wing their way to Italy for £26. The rest was much more modest but I wish I hadn't repainted and ruined a few of them.

To mark this momentous time in my life I give you (in the top right hand corner) a link to The Undertones and My Perfect Cousin - the only song I know that mentions Subbuteo. The couplet, "His Ma bought a synthesizer, Got the Human League in to advise her" is sheer class.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

New Toy

I was able to play with my new toy for the first time at the weekend. Still trying to work out lots of the buttons and settings but was pleased to get a few in focus. The potential picture quality is amazing, now I need to try and tame it. This is quite heavily cropped but still looks sharp and all I did afterwards is warm it up a bit. I'm quite pleased with it but at the end of the day it's a only a picture of a bird on a feeder. Beware - more dull photos can be expected in the coming months.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Reel Issues - Up

Last night we put on the first of our Reel Issues film nights at the local cinema. Got there 45 minutes early to be ready to greet people and check everything was alright for the projectionist (and get the CD played). Asked how many had pre-booked and was told "One". As the screen holds 110 this was a little disconcerting.

But book it and the people will come as another film famously (almost) puts it. And in the end we had 57 people come along to watch the film and of them 50 must have stayed for the discussion afterwards. Discussion was relaxed and insightful and quite quickly one lady raised the main theme (certainly according to the film makers) that adventure isn't just out there, it's happening everyday as we do stuff together with other people. I was really pleased with the event, it was a really good evening and I think most people will come back.

In focusing on the sadness of the film at the beginning I has forgotten how funny it was overall and being in a cinema with people who haven't watched it before was a great experience. If you've not seen the film you must, it's fabulous.

Next month we watch The Truman Show together.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Up - the playlist

Had fun choosing songs for the playlist for music before tonight's showing of Up. Settled for these in the end:

The Last Balloon - XTC
In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Up, Up and Away - The Beloved
Castles In The Air - The Colourfield
Tonight We Fly - The Divine Comedy
Up, Up and Away - Andy Williams (different song to The Beloved)
99 Red Balloons - Nena

Am very excited about tonight's film. The very first in our series Reel Issues, organised with the local churches. We have hired the cinema, rented a film and are offering the chance to discuss some of the issues it raises afterwards. Have done some homework so as to appear intelligent in discussion and just hope I am not there with only my family for company.


Was a full on day but was quite encouraging all the same. Whatever possessed me to think that speaking on The God Delusion, having people back for lunch, leading the communion service and preaching on Romans 8, and then hosting a barbeque for the Youth Group later that evening would be a good idea?

We had a number of new people around for the first 'proper' morning service after Holiday Club, some extra kids, some Mums (because everyone knows Dads are too hard to go to church) and the Dawkins thing turned out to be less scary than I feared. Was surprised by how feeble some of the professor's arguments are. He is (presumably - it's hard to tell with O level Physics) a brilliant scientist but his theology is very poor. Wasn't the greatest sermon ever but got a few thank yous from people who seem to have appreciated it.

Lunch was lovely, with a family 'home' from Ethiopia who popped across to speak in church about the work they are doing. Rather humbled by what they have chosen to do in order to do their work, in terms of such a different country and culture. As always, interesting to hear what they find odd about UK compared with five years ago when they left.

Grabbed a little sleep (a Pastor's secret weapon on a Sunday afternoon) before the evening service, where I think I completely woke up about 20 minutes into the service. Great to be able to preach about the complete freedom that there is for Christians, how the slate is well and truly wiped clean. "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". Reflected on the difference between feelings and fact. There are times when we don't feel this but it is still fact. Glorious.

Then one burger too many at the BBQ but great to see extra kids come along. Three were new because they have just become old enough to attend, two are on the fringes and have hardly been around at all. Hope this will encourage them to join with the other six and that we'd grow into something great for the kingdom.

A long day. A good day. The next few days are busy too but predictably I was get to sit and read and rest for the best part of the day this morning because the dentist was running late. Is it healthy when you look forward to a filling and the time you have to spend in a waiting room?

Friday, 3 September 2010

2020 Vision

A very encouraging day yesterday. Each year the leaders of the church go away for the day to think and pray and plan. This year we were helped by Nigel, who helps a bunch of churches in this area, as we thought about the future.

We started by looking at the last five years and were asked how things are, compared with then, in four areas - Numerically, Spiritually, Relationally, and Missionally. Some of those things are hard to gauge of course (we didn't even reach consensus on some of the numbers). But even though we know that we are far from the finished product it was encouraging to see how we have changed and, dare we say, progressed? There is much to be thankful for and sometimes you need to sit down and have these discussions in order to appreciate how far we have been brought on our journey.

It's impossible to know what the future holds, of course, but we then discussed what we might look like in 2020. Firstly, if current trends continue, and secondly, our best (realistic) hope. We have been blessed with growth this past five years. If it continues, or even increases, (and it's a big but possible "if") then what steps do we need to take to play our part in seeing it happen? And what will church need to look like in terms of support structures and the like if it does come to pass?

It confirmed a lot of my thinking and was very helpful in that Nigel drew these things out of us far better than I would have communicated them myself. Plus he had a good number of further insights which helped us all. As a result of the day we left as a group closer to sharing a vision rather than me just assuming everyone knew what we are doing - because, hey, it's obvious isn't it? We have some things to mull over and put into place after the day and that is going to be helpful to us as a group.

A good day, only enhanced by being able to eat outside in warm September sunshine.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

September (2)

Don't think it's the end of the summer holidays, or the end of the cricket season - more likely the earlier sunsets - but September always brings with it a certain sense of sadness. Consequently I always find myself humming the song of the same name by David Sylvian at this time of the year. Short but (bitter) sweet, it's at top right hand side of the screen if you are already nostalgic for long warm summer evenings. But don't wallow, listen once and move on!


Enjoyed a hot day at the cricket today with my father and kids (an odd way for them to spend the last day of the holidays). Gloucestershire needed 125 in their second innings to win and fell 55 short, thus being in the unenviable position of bowling Derbyshire out for 44 in the first innings and still losing.

Enjoyed playing on the outfield at the lunch interval and as I walked off at the end of the day - well just before tea on the second day when it all finished - clutching an old Gray Nichols I felt like it was thirty years ago and nothing had changed. Gloucestershire weren't any good then either.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

More popcorn Vicar?

Very excited about a series we are running in the local cinema from next Monday. On the first Monday of every month we are showing a film in the local cinema and inviting people to discuss it's themes afterwards. As well as getting us to think about what we watch, we get to see some great films on the big screen - as God intended. We'll try it for four months and see if people show up. The worst that can happen is that we lose a bit of money.

Next week we start with Disney Pixar's Up, which we are showing in 3D. Having seen the film on DVD I am really looking forward to seeing it bigger and in an extra dimension. Will probably blog further as I think about it over the next week. In October we will show The Truman Show - another film I don't think I have seen on the big screen, in November it's Changing Lanes and then we will kick off the Christmas season with It's a Wonderful Life.

It's very exciting to have a digital projector in our small town and an independent cinema owner who is so cooperative. More to follow no doubt!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Xpedition Force

This is one of the most tiring and stretching weeks of the year. It is also one of the most rewarding and enjoyable ones too. It's Holiday Club week.
We have 60 kids each morning for the usual games, songs, stories, craft and bad jokes. As usual, one of the things I love most is the way we work together so well as a team - there are probably nearly 30 of us helping out in different ways.
One of those is the retired signwriter who puts together the scenery - which changes each day as we progress up the mountain. This is what it looked like this morning. Don't worry, the church building isn't on fire, it's low cloud supplied by a smoke machine. This afternoon it had already changed again ready for tomorrow!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Adam Stansfield piece in the Daily Mirror today

There was a moving (and long) piece in the Daily Mirror today about Adam Stansfield written by Oliver Holt. http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/opinion/columnists/oliver-holt/Why-players-like-Exeter-s-Adam-Stansfield-have-a-connection-with-fans-that-the-rootless-millionaires-of-the-Premier-League-never-will-Oliver-Holt-Column-article562879.html

One of the things that I think it highlights is the sense of connection that you get with supporting a smaller club rather than being distantly yoked to a Premiership outfit.

On a lighter note, did you know that Oliver Holt's mum is the actress that played Emily Bishop in Corrie? Me neither.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Spooky Birthday

Today is my birthday. I spent some of it at the church's holiday club where I am helping out. It was going well until, when asked to guess my age, one of the ten year olds said 60. And then kept going down in intervals of two years. We got there - reasonably quickly.

Should I be concerned that on my birthday the second hand of my watch fell off?

Top tune of the day is the very appropriate "Older" by TMBG. It should be available to listen to on the link in the top right hand corner.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Exeter City 2 Bristol Rovers 2

It was always going to be about much more than football as Exeter resumed their season by playing their first game since the death of striker Adam Stansfield. The club made a good job of marking the occasion without going over the top. Particularly moving was the way that the away fans started the minutes applause before Barry Fulls even had a chance to finish the announcement - they were a credit to their club.

The game itself was much better than you might expect for such an emotional charged match. Exeter took an early lead through Nardiello who then limped off later in the half. Rovers always looked dangerous and were level at half-time through Kuffour who was a handful throughout. Duffy was sent off for City within minutes of the restart for bringing down the last man and when Rovers took the lead a few minutes later it looked like it was going to end in defeat for Exeter. O'Flynn (the second new signing to score today) impressed throughout though and with fifteen minutes to go scored a penalty to earn a point. A good result considering Exeter played with 10 men for half the game.

A deserved draw, City are looking strong on this showing and once the team settles (they were without Harley and Taylor today - arguably their best players) we should be safe from the last match of the season nerves that we had last year when a goal ten minutes from time kept us up. If we keep this side - and more importantly this manager, I predict mid-table with a sniff at the play-offs which is never quite realised.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Mirror Mirror

Must make mention of a terrific book that I read on holiday. Mirror, Mirror is a book on self-image written for a primarily Christian audience. Its basic premise is reasonably simple. We tend to get our self-image from what we think people or our culture think of us and so are prey to the vagaries of fashion, mood-swings, passed comments and the like. While that is one mirror that we use, Graham points out that there is a truer mirror in knowing what the Bible says we are like. If this is true then we can live stable and secure lives rather than be blown around by whatever is going on any particular day because we know who we really are.

The book is well illustrated and really well applied – it’s a really practical book. And timely. Self-image is a massive issue for teens (amongst others!) and I guess I have become very aware of this through being more involved with this age group recently. All I seem to hear is self-image from this age group to the point that I fear some will follow Christ so long as he makes them feel good about themselves. But what happens when suffering and persecution come along? What happens when they feel rough and down on themselves or when they realise what a mess they really are?

These are not exclusively teenage problems and I don’t harbour the illusion that I am fully worked out and balanced. Most of us are self-absorbed to an unhealthy degree, some even blog about themselves like they are at all important! But this is a book that will be useful to work through with the teens I am working with and I am looking forward to using it with them.

Holiday Club

Back to work, back to reality. We’re back in Somerset and already preparing for the madness and mayhem that is Holiday Club which starts next week. Really looking forward to it, it’s always a great week and we have 64 kids signed up, a few less than previous years. The theme this year is Xploration Force – aimed at dyslexic adventurous types – and so we are busy copying resources, planning programmes and learning lines. I have been given the part of a grumpy and bad-tempered character in the drama – I know, but I’ll manage it somehow...

Five Years

It’s surprising how much stuff you can accumulate in five years, hence the grand clear out. Family recollections differ about the actual date but five years ago we packed our stuff and headed west. Now, after about 500 sermons and talks, who knows how many meetings, and not enough visits, we feel more widely loved and supported and being here feels less strange, comfortable even. Whether this means we are simply used to the situation or have become strange and therefore fit in is for others to judge.

Looking at the church now and then, things have changed a great deal. A lot of good people have worked hard to see this happen and we have had a very encouraging year with people becoming Christians and being baptised. Hope these are the first of many. A mark of the change is that we are taking part in Back to Church Sunday next month and I, for one, feel much more confident in inviting people to a service than I would have previously. More on this in due course.

Moving On

We came back to spend three busy days sorting rubbish and charity shop runs as we tidied the house ready for the estate agents to come and take pictures of the house. We should be on the market in a few days time. We are not planning on leaving on Burnham but the church has decided it is time to move the Manse to a more suitable property. This will be a good move, the kitchen is tiny and there is no downstairs loo which means we cannot actually have some of our more frail members of the church around for food. Would love to be in a new place by Christmas but these things usually move very slowly, so will have to be patient.

Adam Stansfield

We came back to England to rain on the runway and a decidedly cooler temperature on the day that Adam Stansfield, Exeter City’s number 9, lost his battle with cancer. So desperately sad to see a 31 year old, who was still playing in March, die so young. He was diagnosed in April with bowel cancer after suffering stomach cramps and leaves behind three children. The team was told straight after the game they had played against Ipswich that evening. Terribly, terribly, sad and it puts the game of football into perspective.

Exeter’s game at Dagenham was postponed at the opposition’s suggestion – a gracious act. Which means that the home game against Bristol Rovers on Saturday is scheduled to be the first game after Adam’s passing. We ordered tickets before going on holiday and I want to be there and I don’t want to be there.

Adam’s funeral is on Wednesday at Exeter Cathedral.

Church - "French" style

Went to a church in France and upon finding it was a little disappointed to find it was a service in English for a completely ex-pat congregation. Apparently we’d shown up for their monthly most formal service. Another shame.

Frankly it was probably a good experience for me to be bored in a church, it doesn’t happen much. When lots of the service is sung and you aren’t in on the tune they always use then it’s hard not to feel like an outsider. At no point in the service was any mention of the world or the country outside made. We could have been in England had the weather outside not been a giveaway. It did make me wonder how many of our churches are happy to go through the motions and play church while the rest of the world goes about its business unaware and unaffected.

The sermon was ten minutes long and should have been shorter. The preacher contradicted one of the readings at one point during the sermon – though I don’t think they even realised – and missed a great opportunity to expound on a wonderful passage of the gospel. Instead we just got some rambling reflections on what faith is. I didn’t need their opinions, I needed to know what Jesus said. Sadly, I didn’t get that.

I feel mean being this blunt – they were lovely people and this being a French congregation the coffee was fantastic. But it was a timely experience for me. I had read Bill Hybel’s book “Holy Discontent” earlier in the holiday. Basically he advises discovering what winds you up to the point of you having to do something about it. He reckons we all have something that we are driven to do something about in this world and I think mine is about wanting church to be interesting and accessible and creative and showing that the gospel is relevant to everyone today. I appreciate that people like different styles and approaches but in church here I felt alienated and it felt that someone had done their best to hide God. And I think the vast majority of my friends would feel the same way.

Which is why I do what I do.

Rant over. Sorry.

Highwire Days

Never been more frightened. Only 20 metres up but was plenty high enough of me. Was only there to support daredevil daughter. When she said she was scared I knew it must be bad. Wife thought I was going to have a heart attack and only on later reflection did it occur that I didn’t see anyone older on the course all day. File under “Will NEVER do this again”. Not in France, not nowhere.


Long time, no posts, so let’s catch up. We have been away on holiday for the best part of three weeks and I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I have enjoyed being away from the computer and the internet.

We had two great weeks in France. The first week was spent in a converted barn in the middle of nowhere. It was a fantastically relaxing place to be and we slept a great deal which I think we all needed. The second week was in less good surroundings but we met some lovely people and were ready to communicate again so that was good. Lots of days out, plenty of baguette, cheese and red wine, some games of Risk, sleep and reading books – a terrific time.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

How to install a new printer in a few easy stages

  1. Pluck up courage
  2. Clear away old printer and defunct computer (which has only gathered dust for months)
  3. Take new printer out of the box and read the instructions
  4. Look for the USB cable they claim to have sent
  5. Try the cable that they sent instead
  6. When this doesn't work, search through the drawer of cables and wires at home
  7. Tidy them and throw some out
  8. Go into office to find a USB cable in cupboard or in box by sound desk
  9. When this fails, try the music shop opposite - a long shot
  10. Then the shop on the corner which is bound to have one
  11. Then the shop round the corner - a very long shot but recommended by #10.
  12. On being told best place is in the next town, go home to collect machines to be taken to dump on way.
  13. Discover why they call it a hard drive - break hammer.
  14. Go to the dump and dispose of machines
  15. Go to Asda on way to comuter shop and buy a USB lead!
  16. Get home and discover they didn't mean a USB lead at all but a lead I had all along.
  17. Follow very complicated instructions for setting up a wireless network
  18. On failure realise that I have been talking to myself for quite a while.
  19. Finally get contact, without ever really knowing how.
  20. Print a page
  21. Calculate that this simple process took just under three hours