Apologies for the rather self-indulgent nature of this post (like that's new!). The first print competition of 2012 is simply entitled "My Favourite Image of 2011", the idea being you pick what you liked best of what you took. I think it is one of these - any feedback on which I should enter?
Yesterday was a dry day and my day off this week so we went to breath some fresh air and get away from phones and screens and computers for an hour or so. Inspired after reading Bear Grylls' account of climbing Everest, we set out. Crook Peak is the hill near Weston Super Mare that you see on the left as you pass by on the M5. Good to get out.
Only 191 feet tall (and we parked part way up as it was) but the walk was rather spoiled by the thought in the back of my mind that each section of the Cotswold way would be five or six times further.
The light was pretty hopeless and this was the best I could do.
Christopher Hitchens lost his battle with cancer today at the age of 62. It's sad for anyone of his age in the Western world to die so young and you feel for his friends and family. I have to confess to not having read him really, unless you count 15 minutes in Waterstones while waiting for the rest of the family to finish looking for books. I was looking through God Is Not Great and thought it was a bit flimsy to be honest. But then you would probably expect me to say that.
I heard of his death on the radio this morning when Richard Dawkins was interviewed about him by Nicky Campbell on Radio Five Live. I checked out the interview again on the BBC website when I was more awake to verify that I wasn't misquoting at all.
Dawkins described Hitchens as...
wonderful orator, a great thinker, a great intellect, a great atheist”.
He went on to say...
hated tyranny of all kinds.He was
against Stalin, he was against Mao, he was against Kim Il Sung and he was
against God.He hated tyrants of all
kinds, whether real or imaginary”.
he saw, as a supernatural tyrant, a supernatural dictator”.
I can understand that some people do believe and some don't. What I struggle with is that a few (certainly not all) of the new atheists are so set against religious faith that they attack it so forcefully. To bracket God with Stalin and Mao and Kim Il Sung is very odd to me. People like Dawkins ppear to be very angry about faith and yet their atheism doesn't seem to bring them any happiness. Sometimes they come across as the superior boy on school who sneers and looks down at the others and then wonder why they have so few friends.
This is not a fresh or new or clever opinion. I find myself echoing the thoughts of Marcus Brigstocke (who I very much like) who says the same in his book God Collar. He may tend to agree with much of Dawkins says but he ackowledges that Dawkins doesn't do atheism many favours in the way he comes across as a know it all. I think I'd like a debate over a pint of lemonade with Marcus (who is teetotal) where as I don't really fancy the thought of seeing Dawkins for a drink.
Banksy's latest is this sculpture for the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. It's called 'Cardinal Sin', and he offers this Christmas greeting, “At this time of year it’s easy to forget the true meaning of
Christianity – the lies, the corruption, the abuse.”
Merry Christmas everyone!
Footnote - Cardinal Sin was the real name of the head of the Catholic Church in the Philippines at the time of the overthrow of Marcos after crowds of people refused to accept the corrupt elections. Some of those leading the line were nuns who sat in the path of tanks. Grrrrrr - those pesky Christians, nothing but trouble!
... or should it be 'Pac Lunch'? I wasn't sure, to be honest, but the thing is that only a month after my first placing in a monthly competition I managed to go one better and was the joint winner of the Food themed competition at the club last night.
In common with a lot of organisations these days, the church is facing a hole in the budget that will take quite a lot of filling. It was already looking grim and then on having our electrics examined we find that we are not earthed and suddenly the question of what to do about the lighting in the main hall becomes a more pressing and more costly concern. We have little in the way of reserves to fall back on and no central body to bail us out.
So last night we voted through a budget with a deficit that is larger than our reserves with the huge provisos that we all need to reconsider our giving and that we need to monitor the situation monthly and take even more drastic action if necessary. One of the savings we are making is that I will be paid as part-time from January 1st. As a family this is fine, we are able to do that. It is for an initial three months period, though I suspect it will be for longer. We'll see.
The interesting pastoral situation? I suspect that I need to help people to come to terms with the decision. I think there is a tendency for some to feel that the church is failing because they can no longer afford a full-time or "proper" minister but actually, perhaps what we need to do is find a new way of doing church.
We face an uncertain future as a church and I suspect that a number of churches will face this in time as well. Suddenly we are forced to consider things from a completely different viewpoint, what the buildings are used for, what we are about as a church, and who does what. It's a little bit scary. And it's quite exciting to. Who knows what God will bring out of this?
Had a minor crisis yesterday (one of a series) when all the videos disappeared from the database of the computer we use for projection in the church building. So I've been hunting round for stray copies of things and lo and behold found this. Hardly remember doing this four years ago and then showed it once in a service. Since then it's laid forgotten and neglected on a hard drive.
So, time to let it fly (or flop) on the interweb. It's a series of scenes from the film Miracle Maker together with Stuart Townend singing In Christ Alone. Very much an Easter piece rather Christmas but I was surprised at the job I did on this. Not at all shabby.
I've been thinking about it for a while and it's time to put it into print. That way I can't chicken out. Next spring I get a sabbatical for three months from my day to day responsibilities and as well as visiting other churches and researching new ideas for ministry here, I get to do some things that will replenish me.
Hence I have decided to spend some of the time walking the Cotswold Way. This doesn't involve mincing around or wandering around with a vacant stare whilst sucking on grass stems. It's the 102 mile route which runs from Chipping Camden down to Bath. I've wanted to do it since I was a kid and so here's my chance. Nothing heroic (unlike my friend Natalie who walked the 630 mile South West Coastal Path with barely a day off) but I plan to take it in two day sections, taking eight days to cover the whole thing. Having said that, I will be taking my camera and knowing me that will slow me down considerably, so it might take longer.
Today I was in Taunton with my favourite parishioner and while searching the shelves at Waterstones for a walking guide to the Cotswold Way I found Part One of a two volume work on the walk from Canterbury to Rome. Felt like my stroll was very small beer in comparison but then it's probably frowned upon for Baptist ministers to go to make the journey to Rome on a sabbatical.
Looking forward to it immensely though and just wanted to tell people in case I felt like backing out nearer the time.
I'm a middle aged man, a Baptist Minister, and more to the point an evangelical Christian. I have a great family, the best wife, an interest in music (mainly the sort of things that a middle aged man should like) and media in general. I like my sport and hardly ever play any. Will watch Test matches very happily and have a love of football, Exeter City are my club of choice.