Thursday, 31 July 2008

in support of Sam Norton

In an earlier post I'm also Dave Walker I commented on the the way in which Dave had been forced to remove posts relating to the plight of SPCK and its takeover by SSG. Mark Brewer one of the people behind SSG had sent Dave a 'cease and desist' notice. In support of Dave I published my post to draw attention to his plight.

A fellow blogger and colleague Sam Norton also posted some of the articles about SPCK that Dave had been forced to remove. Now Sam has been sent a cease and desist notice by Mark Brewer and this has been followed up by some pretty unpleasant emails from Brewer which I would argue are an attempt to silence free speech and fair comment. These communications are not simply a legal request they express opinions about Sam's character and behaviour as a priest. It seems to me Brewer is happy to indulge in attacks on the character of others while demanding no comment about his own actions or the organisation he represents, St Stephen the Great SSG, which is a registered charity in the U.K. I am therefore posting the link to Sam's blog containing the original material and the subsequent correspondance.

One of Mark Brewer's contentions is that he is a private citizen and that he does not want his details published as this is an invasion of his privacy. Here are details about Brewer and SSG which SSG publishes on its website.

Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (Charity Registration No. 1119839-1) is an Orthodox lay charity which was established in 2004 to acquire redundant churches in order to put them into use for Orthodox Christian worship. Its objects also include spreading the Gospel message through distribution of the printed word; and supporting Orthodox Christian mission in the U.K.[1]

In the ensuing 3 years, the Trust has acquired redundant churches in Dorset, West Yorkshire, County Durham, Suffolk, Norfolk and West Sussex. It has succeeded in putting these into use as Orthodox Christian Churches or is in the process of doing so. At least three of these buildings were due to be knocked down while a fourth was to be turned over to a wholly secular use.

In 2006, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge transferred the entirety of its retail trading operations to Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust. Its charity registration number is 1119839.
Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust continues to identify redundant churches in order to acquire them and return them into places of worship. Acquiring even a redundant church can be an expensive and time-consuming process. For this reason, the Trust welcomes donations and contributions – both monetary and non-monetary. The Trust also welcomes referrals from the public about closed or redundant churches.
I hope this information is of help and interest to you and your organization. I welcome your support of our bookshop as well as your help and participation in the activities of Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust. Please feel free to contact me at your convenience.

J. Mark Brewer
Chairman and CEO
Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust

As you can see Brewer invites contact and this is the link to SSG's contact form on their website should you wish to express your concerns.

Sam and Dave please be assured of my continued support for you both at this time.
If you would like information about the background to all this Sam has posted a background briefing here.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

walking the walk

Walking the walk is the title of this photo I had published in the Essex Chronicle this week. I took the picture while on a church walk along the Essex Way. My daughter and her friend were strolling along and the sunlight caught them as they walked through the woods. The picture suggests to me something of their emerging faith and companionship on the journey.

Below is another picture from the walk. This was taken in the underpass beneath the Great Leighs bypass. It was an unexpected glimpse of light and beauty in what is a rather unattractive construction.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

I'm also Dave Walker

Dave Walker runs and is cartoonist in residence at the Lambeth Conference, he is also running the Church Times blog from Lambeth. Dave has been forced to remove his blogs about the plight of SPCK bookshops, which he has been posting for some time, following a 'cease and desist' letter sent by the people who took over the bookshops. I am writing this post in solidarity with Dave and in protest at what would appear to be the heavy handed tactics of those who have forced Dave to remove his posts. In the spirit of Sparticus 'I'm also Dave Walker'.

Who's Posted about Mark Brewer's Cease and Desist Notice to Dave Walker

  1. St Aidan to Abbey Manor - David Keen - Vicar (Yeovil)

  2. The Wardman Wire - Matt Wardman (audio of BBC interview from 12/2007)

  3. Gentle Wisdom - Peter Kirk

  4. Bishop Alan's Blog - Alan Wilson, Area Bishop of Buckingham

  5. Blogula-Rasa - Ginny (detailed - worth a read)

  6. Metacatholic - Doug Chaplin - Vicar (West Midlands)

  7. Of course, I could be wrong - Madpriest - Priest (somewhere in England)

  8. Seven whole days - Scott Gunn - Parish Priest (Rhode Island) and Lambeth Conference.

  9. Thinking Anglicans - Simon Kershaw - Cambridge, England (likely to follow further press coverage)

  10. The Jewish Blog Network - How to recover deleted pages. Firefox Resurrect Pages add-on.

  11. Lingamish - Blogger Bludgeoned by Bozos - David Ker - Mozambique. Kudos for the cartoon above.

  12. [Update: 23/07/2008] SPCK Watch - Gagging attempts by Mark Brewer - SPCK Watch. (Somewhere in Europe). Whole blog devoted to SPCK saga.

  13. [Update: 23/07/2008] Elizaphanian - We are all Dave Walkers now - Sam Norton, Rector of West Mersea, Essex. Suggests that we reposts Dave's ex-posts from Google Cache
  14. [Update: 23/07/2008]Mad Hare - Solidarity post - SPCK/SSG and Dave Walker (New Mexico : United States).

  15. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]The Cartoon Blog - Cease and Desist Demand from Mark Brewer Dave's original post - now gone

  16. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]GOD, CHRIST: QUESTIONS & FAITH - More and More on the Exploding SPCK Story & Dave Walker's Cartoon Church Blog Check out the illustration from the 1950s

  17. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Saintly Ramblings - Dave Walker Solidarity Post

  18. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info - Comments on Moderation Expect comment when owner returns from holiday

  19. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]PamBG's Blog - Those Christian Bookshops

  20. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Scatter Cushions - Nothing like like having an informed debate

  21. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]connexions - Cartoon blogger silenced

  22. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Turbulent Cleric - Libel law used as censorship Reflections on the Craig Murray case

  23. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Exigency In Specie - Bullying the Bloggers Southern England

  24. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Asingleblog - Brewers are challenged in court More detail on the attempt to put SPCK UK into Chapter 11 in the USA

  25. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Philip's Tree House - I'm also Dave Walker

  26. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]John Inbetween - Yet another Dave Walker

  27. [Update:24/07/2008 AM]Wormwood's Doxy - Because there's nothing I hate more than a bully....Standing up for Dave Walker & SPCK

The original copy of this list is on the Wardman Wire here.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

re:fresh 2008

(Steve Chalke speaking at re:fresh 2008)
The Chelmsford Christian Festival re:fresh 2008 came to a climax this morning with a service of celebration followed by a party in the park. Churches from across the town joined together to worship and to hear Steve Chalke's challenge to step out and follow Jesus. It was an opportunity to respond to Christ's call to follow whether one was already on the journey or considering responding for the first time. Steve used an illustration from Soren Kierkegaard about geese and asked the crowd whether we wanted to be wild geese liberated to fly and follow the sun or tame geese only concerned with our stomachs and being fattened up for Christmas! I have to admit to feelings of guilt as I tucked in to my Full Monty breakfast baguette for lunch.

Attendances at events during the nine day festival varied with some packed out and others suffering from the bad weather. Highlights included The London Community Gospel Choir, Godspell, Yfriday, Paul Jones and Fiona Hendley Jones as well as a wide range of seminars exploring topics such as war, politics, law and adversity. The festival was sponsored by local churches and Chelmsford Borough Council.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

walk the line

Watched Walk the Line last night. A biographical film about Johnny Cash and June Carter, it covers Cash’s life up until his marriage to June and in many ways it is a straightforward love story. Excellent performances from Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon (who won an Oscar for her performance) as Carter and a superb soundtrack produced by T Bone Burnett. Much to appreciate including the singing of Phoenix and Witherspoon who re-recorded material rather than attempting to lip sync their performances to the original songs.

There is a powerful account of Cash’s childhood. As a young boy Cash’s brother was the one who knew his Bible and was hoping to become a minister while Cash was good at singing the old hymns he had learnt from his mother. When his brother dies in a tragic accident Cash is told by his father that God had taken the wrong son. This haunts Cash throughout the film as does the tension between his religious roots and the music business. There is a fascinating scene when Cash and his backing band audition for Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. Cash sings the gospel song I Was There When it Happened but is stopped by Phillips who tells him to sing a song he really feels. Beginning slowly and uncertainly Cash starts to sing Folsom Prison Blues and then as his confidence grows so the pace quickens until it reaches the familiar tempo of the record. It is on the strength of this performance that Cash and his band are given a recording contract. (I was interested to discover that a couple of years later Cash did record I Was There When it Happened and eventually left Phillips’ label because he wanted to record more gospel material.)

Throughout the film there is recognition of the debt that Cash and his contemporaries including Presley, Lee Lewis and others owe to their religious roots. There is also a frank portrayal of the effects that drug addiction had on Cash’s personality, relationships and music and the part that June Carter played in his recovery.

On her new album, All I Intended to Be, Emmylou Harris sings How She Could Sing The Wildwood Flower about the Carter family and it was this song that she performed with Buddy Miller on Later With Jools Holland earlier this year.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

stumble into grace (1)

Stumble Into Grace is an album by Emmylou Harris released in 2003. I came across this album at the suggestion of Jonathan Evens and it has become a favourite play on my ipod. For most of her recording career Harris has recorded other people's material but this album and Red Dirt Girl which preceded it are comprised of her own material. The music is haunting, the singing has an ethereal beauty and the lyrics reveal a real depth of reflection on life and love.

I also love the title: Stumble Into Grace. There are signs, tokens and images of grace all around us but they are so easy to ignore until we almost trip over them. Commenting on the opening track from her album called Here I Am Emmylou Harris says:

I'm not a particularly religious person. But I thought, "What must God be feeling when people just completely ignore Him?" It's as though this is about unrequited love on the part of God: "I'm right here. I'm everything you need. Why won't you heed me?" Julie Miller had been reading this book that contained the phrase, "You are from the dirt of the earth, the kiss of my mouth," so we put that in there. I wanted to put her on this as my co-writer, but she would have none of it. She did bear witness to it. I still didn't have it finished when we were setting up in the studio. I went, "Well, what am I trying to say?" And I just went, "Well, here I am."

I thought I might use the theme Stumble Into Grace for some posts and if anyone wants to join in then please feel free.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

CCS Cathedral Celebration 08

(Bishop John invites the congregation to congratulate the students)
Another wonderful celebration in Chelmsford Cathedral last night. Students who have just completed the Course in Christian Studies and the Pastoral Assistant and Lay Evangelist Training courses where presented with certificates by Bishop John. Every year the Cathedral is packed for this occasion and last night was no exception. The Venerable Elwin Cockett, Archdeacon of West Ham, preached an encouraging and challenging sermon, music was led by Dry Bones music group and students led a litany of thanksgiving.

It was a special occasion for our family as my wife Kate received her CCS certificate. Altogether there were 65 CCS students, 7 Lay Evangelists and 12 Pastoral Assistants, supported by family, friends and members of their home churches

Bishop John prayed for those receiving certificates with the following words:

Eternal God,
We thank you for your lively wisdom filling the earth,

For delight in your Word,
For growth in understanding,
And for all the work and friendship of our courses.
Pour your blessing on the students and tutors,
And on all your Church,
As we discover and proclaim in the world
Your gospel of love and service, justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

For details about the courses click on the links: CCS, Pastoral Assistant, Lay Evangelist

(Ernie Guest, Sandra Sykes, Jo Chambers, Bishop John, Kate Ritchie & Sharon Guest all former CCS students - except the bishop!)

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Shakey still rocking - Neil Young 6th July 2008

Saw Neil Young on Sunday at the Hop Farm Festival in Kent and he was 'most excellent'. The weather didn't spoil the occasion and Young was supported by a strong line up including Supergrass, My Morning Jacket, Rufus Wainwright (brilliant version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah), Guillemots, Laura Marling, Everest, Carbon/Silicon and Primal Scream who finished with a storming version of Movin' On Up.

There were about 30,000 gathered at the festival which prides itself on its green credentials and refusal to rely on branding. But the crowd were gathered for one reason only and when Young took to the stage I realised a teenage dream, having been unable to see him with Crazy Horse at the Hammersmith Odeon in the mid 70's. The stage was an interesting mix of amps, instruments, fans, cinema lights and a cigar store indian. Most intriguing was the painter's easel at the side of the stage on which a series of paintings inspired by the songs were displayed. The paintings had been created by Young's roadie Eric Johnson during previous shows. In interview Young said that if you didn't want to watch him you could always watch his roadie paint!

Anyway, on with the main event. Young took to the stage in his signature paint splattered suit and roared into a powerful rendition of Love and Only Love. The set mainly focused on his heavier material, perfect for a venue which provided an excellent backdrop for his sonic tour de force. There was a quieter passage which included classics like Heart of Gold and Old Man and Young accompanied himself on a pump organ as he sang a heartfelt Mother Earth. Then a blistering version of No Hidden Path from his last album Chrome Dreams II. This monster went on for over 15 minutes with soaring solos, bone shaking rumbles and harmonics that only Young can rip from his faithful black Les Paul.

The band, including wife Peggy, were magnificent; raw power when required and then perfect harmonies to complement the beauty of Young's acoustic masterpieces. There was one final treat to end: having left the stage for a few moments the band returned and launched into a stunning version of The Beatles A Day In The Life ending with Young's guitar, displaying several broken strings after the thrashing he had just given it, alone in front of an amp and the drone of feedback reverberating around the countryside. As my daughter would say 'awesome'!

(festival weather! Alison & Tim Hancock, Kate & Phil Ritchie)

Set list:
Love And Only Love
Hey Hey, My My
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
I've Been Waiting For You
Spirit Road
Fu***n' Up
Oh, Lonesome Me
Mother Earth
The Needle And The Damage Done
Unknown Legend
Heart Of Gold
Old Man
Get Back To The Country
No Hidden Path
A Day In The Life

Thursday, 3 July 2008

St Mellitus College

(The Psalm Drummers at St Paul's Cathedral)
Great occasion last night at St. Paul's Cathedral to celebrate, commission and give thanks for St. Mellitus College. The service was led by the Bishops of London and Chelmsford and included a dramatic telling of the story of Mellitus, very powerful testimonies from two students, an excellent sermon from Bishop Richard and the commissioning of the Dean Graham Tomlin and the Assistant Deans David Hilborn and Andy Emerton. It was a privilege to be part of the service in my role as a member of staff and to see former and present students and others involved in the establishment of St Mellitus College. A highlight of the evening was the procession to the Great West Doors of the cathedral led by the Psalm Drummers.

St Mellitus College is a new kind of academy, which offers training in Christian theology, ministry and the relationship between theology and the whole of human life. It was founded in 2007 by Richard Chartres and John Gladwin, the Anglican Bishops of London and Chelmsford. It is focussed in London and Essex – the dioceses of London and Chelmsford, although people come to study in the College from much further afield, and from all kinds of Christian churches.

At its heart, St Mellitus has two main parts, the North Thames Ministerial Training Course, which was set up in 1991 and the St Paul’s Theological Centre, which began in 2005.

Alongside the teaching that happens at its centre, the College also aims to bring together and co-ordinate many excellent resources around the region. Other training institutions and communities are joining St Mellitus as associate members, offering their teaching and resources as part of the College, for example: The Kensington Deanery Ministry Scheme and The Trinity Foundation for Christianity and Culture.

Please pray for the college, staff and students at this very exciting time.

The St Mellitus College Collect

God of grace and wisdom,
who called your servant Mellitus
to leave his home and proclaim your Word:
grant to all who belong to the college that bears his name
diligence for study, fervour for mission,
and perseverance for ministry,
that they might shine with your love and truth
in these dioceses and beyond,
for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.