Monday, 30 January 2012

"Bishops stand up for the poor" shock!

Very interesting piece in the Observer yesterday by Victoria Coren who argues, quite sensibly in my view, that it's all very well criticising the church for not speaking out more but then to slam it when it does because you don't like what it says isn't necessarily consistent.  She is writing specifically about the benefits cap legislation and points out that they are bishops and so they have no option but to speak out for the poor - after all, it's what their book is all about. 

A small sample -

"I think the problem they've got is that the New Testament, if read as an economic tract, is innately rather socialist. It's all sharey-sharey. Jesus wanted everyone to get a bit of bread and fish. He was all about the divvying up and the helping one's neighbour. So, if Christianity is going to make itself heard on tax-and-spend policies, it has got to lean towards spreading the spoils around.

There's not much the bishops can do about that. Their hands are tied. The gospels say what they say. If their lordships wanted to support the idea that handing out bread and fish is bad for people because it demotivates them from doing their own baking and fishing, they'd really have to leave the pulpit and get a job on a tabloid".

Click the link above for the whole piece and some very interesting comments by other readers.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Cirencester 12 Burnham on Sea 14

Good game of rugby today, I went back to my home town to watch the game between Ciren and Burnham, my current town of residence.  As a result wasn't altogether sure who to support but in the end found myself rooting for Burnham.  A cold clear day, good to meet up with family and friends and at least attempt my Mum's lunch, somewhere between two and three times larger than it needed to be!    

The only try of the game.

Lining up the winning kick, scored about two minutes from time.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Super Sunday

That's what they have been calling the big football matches on Sky today.  And from what I saw of the Man City vs. Tottenham game it lived up to it's billing.  But my Super Sunday started earlier and was, I reckon, more super.

The service this morning was great.  From before I arrived here I have been praying for the musicians we needed to form a band who could lead us in church.  So, about seven years!  This morning we had a band lead us for the first time and they did a terrific job.  They led firmly but sensitively and when I got up to preach I felt that they had set things up beautifully and I had a platform to build on.  I think I managed not to fumble the ball and people were in great spirits afterwards.  Some who were nervous about having a band (drums, bass, piano and voices) were relieved and appreciative afterwards and the feedback was incredibly positive. 

It was also our Gift Day - previous posts acknowledge that, like for a lot of churches and organisations, we are feeling the pinch and one outcome of this is that I am currently part-time.  Electrical work in the building and a need to replace the lighting pushed us over the edge, hence we had the Gift Day.  The response was excellent and we now have enough to cover the work and a good chunk towards addressing the deficit in our budget.  To give an idea of the scale of this, the Gift Day brought in more than a quarter of our total offerings for the whole of last year. 

We then had a great meal together afterwards.  We have been doing these more often recently and numbers have grown as we have gone along.  It seemed especially appropriate that we ate together in a mood of celebration today and so Super Sunday was great for me before a ball was kicked.  Now we need to pray for a guitarist.  I hope and pray it will be less than seven years this time.      

Saturday, 21 January 2012


No, not about any rumours that might be going around, a murmuration is - apparently - the collective name for starlings.  They can also been known as a filth, though you can see that this might be less flattering to them. 

So I took my camera last week to get some shots of them over the reed beds here on the Somerset Levels and though I had less hits than misses, I was lucky with the colour of the sky with the setting sun and am quite pleased with one or two.  The mild winter has meant that only a million and a half are nesting at Shapwick this year, compared with the six and a half that were holidaying with us last year but they were still a brilliant sight. 


Big drama here as a nearby house was raided and a man arrested under the Explosives Act.  People living within 100 metres were evacuated and the Community Centre was opened up as a refuge for them.  I went down to see if they needed extras spaces for people as it was looking like an overnighter and the church building would have been ideal for them.  In the end it wasn't needed, there was a controlled explosion and people were allowed back into their houses at around 10pm, after about 14 hours of the arrest.  All happens here!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Behind the times

Further proof that you could give a monkey a blue or red rosette in some parts of the country and he'd be elected. On Friday a Private Members Bill will be debated in Parliament to adopt the use of British Summer Time throughout the year.  I would like that bill to be passed and maybe, one day, it will. 

However, Jacob-Rees Mogg opposes the move and has tabled an amendment to reintroduce GWR time, which uses local time for trains - or at least it did until the 1840s.  This would leave Somerset time 15 minutes behind the rest of the country.  "Only 15 minutes?", I hear you cry.  As one poster on the website puts it, currently when it's 6pm in London, in Burnham-on-Sea it's 1972. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Much Appreciated

Sunday Morning I returned to my desk at the church building to find a note of appreciation and some chocolates.  Much appreciated.

Don't take care, take risks

Vicar of Baghdad, there's a job that you probably wouldn't volunteer for.  According to the Christian Today Website Iraq once had 5 million Christians, now it has 200,000.  Christians in Iraq face financial hardship, political instability and the threat of attacks from extremists, and so many have fled to the relative safety of Kurdistan. 

Canon Andrew White is our man in Baghdad, where his Anglican church runs a clinic and relief programme.  The church is in a hard situation there and yet his advice to us in the UK is telling: 

“Don’t take care, take risks and make sure that the church is totally and utterly relevant. The reason I became a clergyman was because I was too bored sitting in the pews. There are so many churches that aren’t full of life.”

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Dear Mariella, Should I go to church?

The Baptist Union news service brings to my attention this interesting piece from the Observer last Sunday.  A women working 60 hours a week and seemingly getting abuse rather than support from her husband, writes to ask whether church is the answer.  Atheist Mariella has some interesting and rather surprising thoughts:

Mariella Frostrup's interesting reply

Monday, 16 January 2012

Dave Gorman v The Rest of the World

Having badly failed to blog the books that I read last year, I need to make a start to the ones I am rattling through  this year.  Not a terribly high-brow selection so far but enjoyable all the same.

This one is a bit of a cheat as I almost completed it in 2011, reading the last twenty pages at 1am on New Year's Day.  Dave Gorman comes across, as always, as thoroughly likable, a little obsessive and whimsical but aren't we all?  In this book he combines his love of playing games and meeting new people by asking if anyone fancies a game.  Thousands replied and in some down time between projects he travels around the UK taking on allcomers at whatever game they fancy.

I came away with a desire to play some new games, and to rediscover taht sense of fun in playing games - why do we hit a certain age when we seem to lack the time or inclination to take pleasure in playing for playings sake?  (A friend of mine recently challenged me on how much pleasure I experience in life - a question that Wesley apparently asked of his people).

Gorman meets a whole bunch of really nice people in his travels and three slightly odd ones.  One of them nearly puts him off asking to play games with people but thankfully doesn't.  Sadly it's someone who seems to have some sort of (odd?) faith but even then I am struck by Dave Gorman's compassion in very trying circumstances. 

So, a good read.  More whimsical than his America Unchained which has interesting observations on the corporate nature of the USA (read last autumn) but just as much fun.      

Saturday, 14 January 2012

To tithe or not to tithe, that is the question

It's always good when the Bible changes your mind. It is a good reminder that you don't know everything and that you have stuff to learm still. 

Last Sunday in church I was talking about giving - partly through necessity and partly because we need to address big questions in church, after all Jesus did.  I figured it was fairly straight forward, there is plenty in the Old Testament about giving a tithe (a tenth) to God's work and to support the poor.  But having read more it's apparent that the New Testament doesn't talk in terms of tithes.  The one place where Jesus seems to commend someone giving a tithe is when the Pharisee (who isn't a Christian) is praised for being so diligent that he tithes the herbs he grows.  But then he points out what the Pharisee has forgotten - justice, mercy, faith (Matthew 23.23-24) - all way more important than getting your mixed herbs right.  

However – we aren’t off the hook.  Far from it!  The Bible has plenty to say about followers of Jesus being generous in their giving.        

Jesus tells us that when we give money we aren't to make a song and dance about it – do it quietly and without telling others about it. Matthew 6.1-4  Notice too that Jesus says when you give – not if you give.  He also observes and commends radical acts of generosity on the occasion of the widow who gave all she had.  Mark 12.41-43.    Jesus also says that whatever we do for the least of these you do for me – feed the hungry, clothe the poor, give the thirsty something to drink, tend to the sick.  Matthew 25.31-46. 

So giving isn't off the agenda for Christians, just that tithing isn't taught for us.  In the longest passage about giving in the New Testament (2 Corinthians 8 & 9), Paul tells the church to be generous because they are grateful for the grace they have recieved.  And it makes a metric tonne of sense for Christians who are grateful for God's generosity to be grateful in turn to the church and to others.  
Thing is, despite our spiritual sensitivities, giving is a spiritual activity.  Our budgets are spiritual documents – they show what we think are important and where our priorities lay.  That’s the case whether we are setting budgets for our own spending or working out our finances as a church.  That’s why I fear our church is in a difficult place financially, and perhaps, spiritually; because our budgets, individually and corporately, reveal something of our hearts.

For some the tithe is too much of a stretch, for others it isn't enough of a challenge.  What we mustn't do is use the freedom I believe we have to hide from our responsibilities.  I saw a statistic that said the average American Evangelical gives away 3% of what they earn.  I dare say the Brits aren't too far off this figure, though it's a complete guess on my part.  Which would suggest that some are less grateful than the Pharisees. 
But don't let me or anyone else twist your arm.  As Paul makes clear:

2 Cor 9 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

Whatever we do, we should do so cheerfully before God.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

366 challenge

Been taking pictures as part of the 366 challenge, one a day.  This week I spent a great couple of days in the New Forest with friends and as well as much appreciated laughter and discussion and prayer there was the chance to explore a new place and get a picture in the sunshine. 

In case you thought I have given up already , I haven't!  I'm posting them each day on my Flickr account and at 365Project. Really enjoying it so far, it's going to be harder on the dull days but the fact I have to take something is a great motivation. 
If you want to see them each day it's either:

This is where I have more pictures.

This is where lots of people are taking the challenge and we all post one a day.
Thanks for the positive feedback!  Will try and blog about something else next time.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A tough day

Partly a tough day because I was back at work after the long break and it always takes a while to get your bearings again.  Have to remember that we are not machines and to forgive ourselves if we don't slot straight back in. 

But in photo challenge terms it was a really stinker.  Lots of heavy rain and dark skies and wind, the other two I am doing the challenge with played it safe and took pictures indoors.  However there was a brief respite from the elements and I struck lucky when a friend from church passed by.  6 down, 360 to go!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Challenge

Spent a lovely time seeing in the New Year with friends and now it's back for a further day off before work, once again, beckons.  The Cotswolds were very mild and very grey which made picture taking a bit of a challenge.  But here is evidence, taken this morning, that spring seems to be very early this year, these snowdrops shouldn't be here yet.

While I was away I decided to embark on a very silly photo challange to take a photo each day to post up on my flickr account.  It will probably result in a lot of ordinary pictures but practice makes perfect as they say.  This one is today's, the series can be found here:

Happy New Year everyone!