Sunday, 27 June 2010

They Might Be Giants at the Royal Festival Hall

More than a bit tired after a fantastic day out in London on Saturday. It was a hot day and London was looking great; good to walk along the river and take in the sights and sounds - so many different accents and languages. We trained in from Reading to Waterloo and then walked further than we realised to the Tower of London. A lot of bling.

The reason for the big day out was the rare appearance of They Might Be Giants (TMBG) on UK soil. They played the Royal Festival Hall as part of a Science Festival, one of their kid's shows in the afternoon and then a show for grown ups in the evening. We were in the audience, along with Mark Ronson, Jonathan Ross and a whole bunch of nerdy middle aged people.

It was a brilliant gig. They are known as quirky and clever but you'd be daft to overlook the hook laden songs and the musical virtuosity of them. 14 albums (I think) and still going strong(ish). The trip to London being such a rarity TMBG were greeted with such obvious affection that they would have struggled not to have had a good time. They didn't disappoint. Some storming rock, much whimsy and sock puppets added to a heady mix. Highlights for me were "Why does the sun shine?" in pirate style followed by "Why does the sun really shine?", a later song written in the face of new scientific eveidence. "Doctor Worm" and "Don't Let's Start" are great songs and a rip-roaring version of "Your Racist Friend" was possibly the pinnacle. A good time had by all (with the possible exception of my son) and so many encores that we missed our train and then the next one. And not caring, even though we didn't end up rolling back into town until just after three this morning. A long and expensive day out and one that I think will live long in the memory.

Postscript - Found someone's ticket in the bar before the gig and handed it in at the door that it was valid for. A minute or so later I have a grateful German fan wishing to buy me a beer. He had flown to London especially for the gig as he feared that this might be the last time he would get the chance to see them. He was flying out again the following day. And I thought I was putting in a bit of an effort! I declined his kind offer, though after the football today I wish I had taken him up on it.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Invite people!

It has been interesting that in the screening of the football World Cup games that we have been on local TV and radio, newspaper and website and though we had around 50 people in for the second game, only one of those was a stranger - and he was there because he was invited by a friend. This is a lesson for when we take part in Back To Church Sunday in September. All the posters and publicity in the world will be no substitution for a personal invite.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Church does something normal and interesting shock!

Read all about it!

Following my previous blog entry I thought I would report that the local paper didn't run anything on the Cumbria shootings in the end, seems like the story faded quite quickly.

As an after thought I wrote them a quick press release about the fact that we are screening the World Cup football on the big screen in the church building and asked if they could give it a plug in a corner of the paper somewhere.

Well, it must be a quiet news week because they sent a photographer and I am your page three stunner this week. (Knocked off the front page by the theft of lead from another church building in the town). The town's website (which has three times the circulation of the paper - interesting sign of the times) also sent a photographer, local radio have picked up on it and I just stumbled across our local TV news reporter in the car park and did a brief piece for Points West, the local TV news, tonight. I'd have shaved if I knew he was coming.

All makes for an interesting day at the office but it feels odd as well. Because what we are doing just seems so normal to me. We are screening a football match and inviting people to join us. Just basic low level outreach and hospitality. Quite sobering to think that this is deemed newsworthy. I'm not sure if this is an indicator that the church is so out of touch with the rest of the world or vice versa. Could well be the case that the world is so out of touch that they are surprised when a church does something very slightly out of the box.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Derrick Bird

It's Monday morning. I have a call from the local newspaper asking for a comment on the awful events in Cumbria last week. Where do you start? I am sure I could do better than this but this is what I came up with. Wonder if they will use any of this...

The terrible events of the Cumbrian shootings, as well as the terrific response of people in the aftermath is a reminder to us that we are all capable of both great good and great evil. For most of us our actions are nowhere near as extreme but we have all given vent to our anger at some time and we have all been responsible for acts of courage and compassion.

More will probably come out about Derrick Bird’s actions and motives in due course but these tragedies underline what a dangerous thing anger is in our lives. We are said to live in an increasingly angry society but here we see how awful the fallout is if we store up bitterness.

Seeing the awful consequences of these shootings underlines for me why the Bible’s advice to deal with anger before you sleep each night is so sound. Hoarding up grudges does us no good and in more extreme circumstances is literally, sadly, deadly.

The alternative is to deal with anger and bitterness. Forgiving other people is rarely easy. I cannot imagine how long it will be before relatives of victims of these shootings can have some kind of peace in their lives. But the alternative to forgiveness is to be eaten up with bitterness for the rest of your life.

As well as praying for the families and friends of everyone involved we would be wise to drop the grudges we carry around. Our anger will cause less pain than Derrick Bird’s did but we’ll end up hurting others and ourselves if we don’t get rid of it.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Grace, it never gets old.

I have been annoying my (very) significant other recently by reading a book over the last few weeks and raving about how good it is. It is Extreme Righteousness by a man called Tom Hovestol and it is brilliant, one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is about the Pharisees and the lessons that we can learn from them. Here’s an illustration from near the end that underlines how pathetic our efforts at building up spiritual brownie points are compared with what Christ has already done for us:

“Imagine that you were a shrewd businessperson who had built a nest egg of $50,000. Bill Gates, the multibillionaire founder of Microsoft, befriends you and later decides to bequeath much of his considerable wealth to you. What would you do? Probably you would view all the money you had worked so hard to accumulate as unworthy of your attention. You might even eliminate it from your accounting, for it is as rubbish next to your newly acquired billions. In the asset column you would have great difficulty writing an amount because the figure is too large. Instead you may simply write “Inheritance from William Gates.” Furthermore, any future assets that you would accumulate from your job would seem inconsequential in comparison.

So it was for the apostle Paul:

If others think they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. Philippians 3:4b-7

So it should be with us.” (Hovestol, pages 219-220)