Sunday, 30 January 2011


This morning Christians up and down the land may be challenged to engage in an act of alt worship. It’s a fifth Sunday in the month and many churches take the opportunity to try something different. Some churches will be celebrating the Presentation of Christ a few days early. Some will get out the pebbles, tea lights, harps and Iona music for a taste of the Celtic (green and white hooped shirts not obligatory).

However, I suspect there will be many Christians favouring alt worship. Contrary to belief in liturgical circles, alt worship does not refer to alternative worship but Australian Lawn Tennis Worship. Andy Murray, the great hope of British tennis, is playing in the final of the Australian Open this morning against someone who isn’t called Nadal or Federer. Surely, this is the chance for Britain’s woeful run of failure in men’s top tennis toumurrayrnaments to come to an end. And so the nation is called to fall on its knees in supplication for a British win. Of course if Murray fails to beat Novak Djokovic he reverts to being Scottish but let us not be negative.

Come on Andy!

Update: The Scottish lad lost.

Friday, 28 January 2011


During the 1990s I had the privilege of working with Tim Hull both as a colleague in the parish and at North Thames Ministerial Training Course (now part of St Mellitus College). Apart from being a great teacher and theologian, with a particular expertise in all things Pannenberg, Tim has a real interest in harnessing audio visual and digital communications technology in theological education and training.

In the parish Tim and I used to have a private competition trying to produce illustrations for our sermons which would keep the other one guessing how they were created. Tim has moved well ahead of me in that game and as a member of the St John’s, Nottingham faculty has a particular brief for developing extension studies multimedia resources. One of his major projects is Timeline, a great resource for those interested in exploring key Biblical and theological themes and figures from a historical perspective. I’ll let Tim explain how it works.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Holocaust Memorial Day 2011

One of my most powerful and moving experiences in recent years was a visit I made in December 2008 to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. I have many pictures taken that day but I don’t really need to look at them as the images from the visit are all too vivid in my mind.

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is commemorated internationally on 27th January each year. This date was chosen as it is the anniversary of the day in 1945 on which the Soviet Army liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau. You can light a virtual candle at the HMD website. This year the theme is Untold Stories. HMD remembers not only the Holocaust but other genocides including Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.

Last year I posted this prayer and it seemed appropriate to post it again today.

A Prayer said on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Anne Frank:
God, you created us all in your own likeness.
We thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in your world.
Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellow feeling and understanding;
show us your presence in those most different from us, so that in all our relationships,
both by what we have in common and by things in which we differ,
we may come to know you more fully in your creation;
for you are Father, Son and Holy Spirit for ever. Amen

My previous posts for HMD are 2009, 2010.

Update: The Archbishop of Canterbury's HMD 2011 statement: Untold Stories.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Some great female football journos

A few days ago I sent out a tweet asking for recommendations of football blogs written by women. I think it was taken as a joke because it followed some twitter conversations about Christian blogs written by women. I was being serious but my request was met with deafening silence. Recommendations are still very welcome.

In the light of the Neanderthal Tendency’s activities over at Sky Sports I thought I’d mention a few of the female sports journalists who clearly know a lot more about football than just the off side rule.
  1. Sue Mott. Despite her infatuation with all things Arsenal, Sue consistently delivers the goods with her incisive observations. Sue has a vast experience of a wide range of sports and having spent many years at The Telegraph she is now a freelance writer.
  2. Marina Hyde. This lady is one of my favourite columnists. She writes for The Guardian on a range of issues but has weekly columns on sport and celebrity which, lets be honest, often go together. Here is a fine example of her withering style.
  3. Georgina Turner. Writing for Sports Illustrated, Georgina’s material is a mixture of detailed analysis and comment. She is writing for a wide international audience (which explains the $ rather than £ in her pieces) and I’m not recommending her just because of articles like this.
  4. Alyson Rudd. A Scouser. The problem for Alyson is that she is stuck behind The Times pay wall along with other great journos like David Aaronovitch. She knows football from the turf up, having played for Leyton Orient Ladies, and is one of several female sports writers who more than hold their own on the brilliant BBC Radio 5 Live’s Fighting Talk. She’s also good value on Twitter.
  5. Jacquelin Magnay. The Telegraph’s Olympics Editor, Jacquelin wrote an excellent piece on sexism in sport. She knows what she is talking about having won a landmark case in the Human Rights Commission that made it illegal for sporting clubs to discriminate against media on the basis of gender. Doesn’t write much about football but deserves an honourable mention.
You might also want to check out +Nick Baines’s suggestion for how to handle the offensive remarks of reprobate sports presenters.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Changing attitudes

Some people may have already seen this but I thought it was worth posting. A group of engineers in Stockholm got together to see if they could change people’s behaviour. They wanted to reverse the percentage of people choosing the escalator rather than the stairs and the result was 66% chose the stairs. Of course the whole thing is really an advert for a certain car manufacturer. One wag commented that an easier way to do it would be to simply switch off the escalator but where’s the fun in that?

The video reminded me of my favourite scene from the film Big.

Now what can we learn from this about encouraging people to explore the Good News we have to share?

h/t Chris Newlands and Sandra Sykes

Monday, 24 January 2011

Benedict getting digital

Apparently this is the 45th World Day of Social Communications and Pope Benedict XVI has issued his message Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.
benedict xviIt is difficult to read the statement online as I have an aversion to Times New Roman type face on a light brown speckled background. It doesn’t help that I have a 22inch wide screen monitor that makes dense paragraphs of text almost impenetrable. The language of the message is also rather stilted but that may be more to do with the translation.

Nevertheless, the message has some interesting and challenging points to make and is very upbeat. Here is what the Pope says about the opportunities that digital media makes possible.
The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.
I’m not sure how ‘new’ these technologies are as they’ve been around for quite a while. I guess viewed from the ancient confines of the Vatican new is a relative term.

The Pope goes on to remind his readers that the medium is there to serve humanity not the other way round.
As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.
There are several mentions of what are perceived to be problems with digital communication.
The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativized and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations. On the other hand, this is contrasted with the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.
Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for "friends", there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.
I don’t think Benedict is right to say that digital communication is a one-sided interaction; it can be but it does not need to be. I do agree that there is the danger of presenting a false image of oneself. He also has a challenging question which deserves attention for Christians engaging with social media.
Who is my "neighbour" in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world "other" than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.
I was interested in the Pope’s suggestion that there is a distinctively Christian way of maintaining an online presence.
It follows that there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others. To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically. Furthermore, it is also true in the digital world that a message cannot be proclaimed without a consistent witness on the part of the one who proclaims it. In these new circumstances and with these new forms of expression, Christian are once again called to offer a response to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is within them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
What most appealed to me in the message was the acknowledgement that the digital world is part of human life and therefore needs to be embraced. This is a very affirming observation for those of us wanting to take engagement seriously.
I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment (cf. Eph 1:10).
And there is a reminder that in this area, as in all aspects of human activity, how we engage is itself an important witness to the Gospel we seek to proclaim.
The proclamation of the Gospel requires a communication which is at once respectful and sensitive, which stimulates the heart and moves the conscience; one which reflects the example of the risen Jesus when he joined the disciples on the way to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35). By his approach to them, his dialogue with them, his way of gently drawing forth what was in their heart, they were led gradually to an understanding of the mystery.
One of my reservations about the Pope’s take on this subject is his assumption that digital communication and social media are primarily the preserve of the young. Perhaps his emphasis is dictated by his focus on the upcoming World Youth Day in Madrid. I hope it isn’t a reflection of an ignorance in the corridors of the Vatican that people of all ages are engaging in these networks. However, I want to be positive about the statement and finish with the Pope’s concluding remarks.
In the final analysis, the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks. Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others. On the contrary, believers encourage everyone to keep alive the eternal human questions which testify to our desire for transcendence and our longing for authentic forms of life, truly worthy of being lived. It is precisely this uniquely human spiritual yearning which inspires our quest for truth and for communion and which impels us to communicate with integrity and honesty.

Jesus through the Bible: Bible Year 2011 (7)

This is a great trip through the books of the Bible and as several people have commented Jack really looks like he means it.

h/t Rachel Marszalek

Sunday, 23 January 2011

What’s the difference?

In April 2004 Ron Atkinson, former football manager and ITV commentator, was forced to resign following a racist outburst after a football match. Atkinson didn’t realise his microphone was still live when he launched into his offensive remarks about Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly, following Chelsea’s defeat in the Champions League. The Guardian also cancelled Atkinson’s football column and his career in British broadcasting never recovered.

massey Today the Mail Online reports that Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys have been recorded making sexist comments about a female match official before yesterday’s game between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Liverpool. These are the comments about referee’s assistant (new name for linesman) Sian Massey according to the Mail:
Commenting on Ms Massey, Mr Keys said: ‘Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.’
Mr Gray, a former Scottish international footballer, replied: ‘Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.’
Mr Keys replied: ‘Course they don’t. I can guarantee you there will be a big one today. Kenny (Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish) will go potty. This isn’t the first time, is it? Didn’t we have one before?’
That was not the end of the duo’s erudite banter. Commenting on an article about sexism by Karren Brady, West Ham Utd’s vice-chairman, Keys went on to say:
‘The game’s gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favour, love.’
Ron Atkinson quite rightly lost his job for his racist comments. What will happen to Gray and Keys following their sexist lament? Will they be forced to resign or will the football and broadcasting establishment try and laugh the matter off?

My young daughter loves playing and watching football. The views of Gray and Keys, who think it is funny to make derogatory comments about women, have no place in the game. I fail to see the difference between their blatant sexism and the racism that has also sullied the beautiful game.

Update: Sky has released a statement saying that Gray and Keys have apologised for their remarks. Is this enough? What if they had made comments about the linesman's ethnicity rather than her gender?

Update 2: I see that Sky have suspended Gray and Keys for tonight's game between Bolton and Chelski. Some indication that they are taking this seriously, but is it enough?

Update 3 (25th): Andy Gray has been sacked by Sky as more material has come to light.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Plan Be

I came across a book today called Plan Be by Dave Andrews and when I followed up some links I discovered an interesting campaign called The book is an exploration of the Beatitudes of Jesus as a call to radical living:  plan be
If we are to take the Beatitudes seriously as a set of ethical guidelines, then we need to re-acquaint ourselves with the Be-Attitudes and re-discover the workable virtues they embody. For an exciting detailed exploration of the workable virtues embodied in the Beatitudes you can study my series of meditations on “The Be-Attitudes For Today’s World”
We can see the workable virtues advocated in the values that are blessed in the Be-Attitudes
1. Blessed are the poor – or poor in spirit – who do not trust in status or riches
2. Blessed are those who mourn – who grieve over the injustice in the world
3. Blessed are the meek – who get angry but who never get aggressive
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – who seek justice
5. Blessed are the merciful – who are compassionate to everyone in need
6. Blessed are the pure in heart – who are whole-hearted in desire to do right
7. Blessed are the peacemakers – who work for peace in a world at war
8. Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness – who suffer for just causes
The campaign is described in the following terms by the author of the book: is a global web-based campaign to encourage people to sign on to ‘Plan Be’, to practice the Be-Attitudes and be ‘The-People-That-Be’ over against ‘The-Powers-That-Be’.
You can sign up and start to ‘be involved’ right now …
In an article called Cold Turkey, Kurt Vonnegut, the famous satirical American author, wrote:
“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the beatitudes. But – often with tears in their eyes – they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes, be posted anywhere.”
Well, I think its time we took up Kurt’s challenge and posted the Be-attitudes up everywhere.
After you have signed up to practice the Be-Attitudes I’d encourage you to post a copy of the Be-Attitudes in your own private space – like on the wall of your bedroom – and in a public space – like on the door of your church, or of your city council, or your state government or, of course, your blog.*
Dave Andrews

Well I’ve done the easy bit which is to post the Beatitudes on my blog. Now for the hard bit; to live them out!

h/t Pete Ward

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Personal or Professional?

An interesting issue has arisen for me about the character and purpose of my blog. On Sunday it was announced that I will be returning to parish ministry and I immediately noticed a large increase in traffic to my blog based on Google searches. I’m fairly sure much of this traffic is from future parishioners so I had a bit of a panic and quickly checked recent posts to make sure I had not said anything I was going to regret. The post about my random album with a naked woman on the front cover caused a slight wobble, but my wife thought it tasteful so I figured there was not a problem.

However, this has made me think about the purpose of my blog and how I will use it in the future. I’ve already noticed that almost subconsciously I post less about my family and tend to keep that information for my Facebook page where there is more control over access. I also notice that I have been putting up more work related posts, particularly in connection with Bible Year 2011. Nevertheless, my blog is still a place where I can fire off my own reflections and observations, not just about faith but about football, culture, politics and whatever else happens to catch my attention.

So the question is this:
Do I keep my blog for my personal thoughts and opinions and roll out a separate blog related to my parish ministry? Or do I merge the two together?
I can see strengths and weaknesses with both approaches and notice that blogging colleagues have taken different stances. I don’t want to lose the character of my blog, such as it is, but I will want to post material related to my work in the parish that may be of little interest to a wider readership. Yet, there is likely to be a certain amount of overlap in material and there may well be things relating to our specific parish context that resonate further afield. 

Thoughts please…
pr champ
Any excuse!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

All change

I have a new job! It is being announced this morning that I’m going to become Team Rector of the Great Baddow Team Ministry. It’s a very exciting and challenging prospect and quite different from my lay education and training role in the Diocese of Chelmsford. This will be a massive change for the family. We’ve lived in our present home for the last ten years, so the children know little else and we will be sad to move from our village church, community and friends in the Leighs. It will also be hard to say goodbye to the fantastic team of people that I’ve been privileged to work with in my present role both in the diocese and at St Mellitus College. Nevertheless, we are really looking forward to what God has in store for us during this next stage of our walk with him.

Great Baddow is a large parish on the outskirts of Chelmsford, with three churches, two team vicars, several associate ministers, and a large team of lay ministers. I will be primarily focused on leading the ministry at St Mary’s and we know some of the congregation, having led a parish weekend for them a few years ago. I also work closely with some of the ministers and congregation through our roles in the diocese and look forward to sharing in ministry with them in a new context.

I’ll be blogging some reflections on my experiences of lay education and training and ordination training over the last ten years in due course. There will also be some observations about the crazy appointments procedures that the Church of England insists on inflicting on parishes and clergy, but that’s for another time.

A date for the installation hasn’t been finalised yet. We would value your prayers for us as a family and for the Great Baddow Team as we prepare for the move over the weeks ahead.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Random Album

A brilliant way to pass a few minutes.
  1. Go to Wikipedia & hit random. The first article you get is the name of your band.
  2. Go to & hit random quotes. The last 4 or 5 words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your album.
  3. Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”. The 3rd picture no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
  4. Use photoshop or similar ( is a free online photo editor) to put it all together.
Here’s what I came up with (it was random, honestly) and I like it. Now I just have to find a band and record some music!

album cover 1

Thanks to Hannah Batson. I tag anyone who wants to give it a go.

Ordinariate – a measured response

Certain sections of the media are prophesying disaster for the Church of England, or at least serious instability in the days ahead, with the establishment of the Ordinariate. The view on the ground looks very different and those who are not in need of a headline to earn their daily crust have a very different perspective. Many bishops are issuing clear statements to their dioceses about the situation. The Bishop of Chelmsford sent an Ad Clerum to clergy a few days ago and Elizaphanian has given a good summary of its contents.

This week the Bishop of Chelmsford and the Bishop of Brentwood issued a joint statement on the matter and this also seems to be a gracious yet firm statement, which they have asked clergy to share with their congregations. Here’s what they wrote:

Dear friends in Christ,
As bishops charged with responsibility to uphold the unity of God’s church on earth we are painfully aware of the divisions that still impair the unity that Christ longs for and for which he shed his blood. This is not just a unity within the church – though we long for this to be revealed – but a unity for all God’s people and between the families of the nations.

The church has a specific vocation to witness to this unity and it is always a cause for concern if it is threatened or damaged. Some have intimated that the introduction of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus (Personal Ordinariate in England and Wales) may present just such a challenge. We do not see it this way. We recognise that in both our communities there have been times when individuals and groups have felt it right to move from one community to another.

At the moment there are some priests and people in the Church of England who for reasons of conscience believe that their Christian journey can best continue within the Roman Catholic Community. We give thanks for their contribution to the life of the Church of England, and we pray for the new life they will have and the gifts they will bring to the Catholic Church. But the setting up of the Ordinariate does not in any way deter us from the ultimate goal of that visible unity within the church that is Christ’s prayer and which is shared by all Christian people. Nor do we think it will be
helpful if in the setting up of the Ordinariate there is confusion between the different identities of the worshipping communities. We therefore expect congregations within the Ordinariate to meet and worship in the context of their local Roman Catholic Church and form a distinct new part of that community’s witness. The worship and witness of the Church of England in the parish they have left will also continue.

Ultimately we hope that these developments will draw us closer together. During his visit to the United Kingdom in September, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was keen to stress that the Ordinariate “…should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury has also indicated his support for close co-operation between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church as the Ordinariate comes into being.

We therefore also take this opportunity to re-commit ourselves to working together for the cause of the gospel in Essex and East London, and we urge priests and people within the Church of England who are considering joining the Ordinariate - and we think there may be five or six such groups - to make contact with us so that during this time of transition nothing could be seen to impede our friendship, unity and mission.

Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford
Rt Revd Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood

Friday, 14 January 2011

Ramshackle prophet

It is easy to forget how extraordinary some events were when we first experienced them. Last night I watched When HarvLive Aid logoey Met Bob a BBC film about the events leading up to Live Aid in 1985. The 1985 concert was amazing.  I had just graduated from university, dad had got hold of a video recorder and I still have the original tapes (VHS not Betamax thankfully). We’ve had a steady stream of these jukebox charity concerts since Live Aid, including Live 8, but none match the magic of that first event.

The film depicts the unfolding relationship between Bob Geldof, who had the vision for the concert, and Harvey Goldsmith, the concert promoter who helped Geldof make the vision a reality. Domhnall Gleeson’s portrayal of Geldof is superb; he nails the accent, the slouch, the haunted look, the bloody mindedness and the hair. It seemed to me the hair was a visual metaphor for Geldof’s emotions. The more upset and frustrated he became, the wilder his mop of hair, until by the day of the concert when it was completely out of control. Gleeson gives us the ramshackle prophet, not the plaster saint, raging against the plight of millions facing starvation while the world shrugged its shoulders in apathy.

geldof I wasn’t as sure about Ian Hart’s portrayal of Goldsmith. The concert promoter is no shrinking violet and he didn’t convey the force or energy of the man, nor the character required to make such an event happen and reign in Geldof’s wilder notions. It was a pity that Midge Ure didn’t even get a mention, apart from a snatch of his hit Vienna, given that he was Geldof’s partner in the recording of the Band Aid charity single which kicked the whole thing off.

The most striking aspect of the film is the reminder of just what a seat of the pants enterprise Live Aid was. Geldof, blustering and blagging his way through press conferences, promising performances from artists who’d never heard of the concert, making commitments without a clue how they would be delivered. The interviews and documentaries I’ve seen about Live Aid over the years confirm that this is an accurate picture. Even at the last moment, with Live Aid well under way in both London and Philadelphia, it looked like the event would fail in its purpose. People were watching the bands but weren’t committing their money and so in a desperate effort to drum up donations Geldof did a live interview. Part way through he loses his temper and makes an expletive ridden demand for money. I remember the jolt of electricity hitting me as I heard his words at the time and I remember the response as the cash began to flood in.

Geldof has plenty of critics and I’m sure he’d be the first to admit his faults, but there are many people alive today because of what he and Goldsmith achieved with Live Aid.

No apologies for showing one of my favourite clips…

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Penance for iPhone

No, this isn’t an invitation to confess your lust for all things Apple, it’s a new application for the iPhone. The new Penance app invites you to:
app1Anonymously confess your sins to other users of the app. Give and receive guidance on absolution. The more notable confessors are ranked on a league table, with the foremost being rewarded with titles and the right to issue week-long edicts to the faithful.
A review of the app informs us:
Penance differs from other confession apps in that it is structured to create a self-sustaining community rather than be a simple whiteboard for posting confessions.
app2With Penance, a user will download the app and create Sinner and Saint accounts, credited with five ‘horns’ and five ‘halos’ respectively. A horn allows a Sinner account to make a confession, which is randomly sent out to a dozen Saint accounts who can send back a penance at the cost of a halo. If the Sinner accepts the penance as fair and manageable the Saint is rewarded with TWO halos. The highest ranked Saints are rewarded with titles and may issue edicts to all the Faithful underneath them.

To keep the confessions and penances flowing all users are gifted a horn and halo every Sabbath, though there is the option of using IAP to gain them faster.
I did notice that this app is restricted for download to users over the age of seventeen, which suggests the designers are anticipating some interesting confessions and warns that there will be ‘frequent/intense/mature/suggestive themes’. I think we can all see where this is going.

One thing the app has got right is that it is free. The good news is that we don’t need to to do penance to receive God’s forgiveness, nor do we need an iPhone, as the Bible reminds us:
If we claim that we're free of sin, we're only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won't let us down; he'll be true to himself. He'll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. 1 John 1:8,9 The Message

h/t @liminalspace

The Good Book Tour: Bible Year 2011 (6)

To engage with Biblefresh, and to begin exploring the biblical theme for their main event this year, Spring Harvest is joining forces with a few of Britain's cathedrals and some larger churches to commemorate 400 years of the King James Bible and celebrate the retelling of scripture for every generation.

They're joined by poet Gerard Kelly, and historian Derek Wilson for an eight-date tour, sharing insights and reflections on the text, set alongside Lacey Theatre Company's extracts from the award-winning ‘Word on the Street’ (formerly ‘the street bible’).

Ancient meets modern, text meets expression and people meet scripture in an ever-unfolding story. It will be an opportunity to explore how the Bible has shaped and influenced our culture, and to enjoy an evening of theatre, poetry and more.

Details about The Good Book Tour can be found here. Abby Guinness and Gerard Kelly chat about the tour in this short video.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Matty Burrows – the wonder stuff

The FIFA Ballon D’Or football awards for 2010 are being announced tonight. Amidst the predictable nominees for the prestigious awards of player of the year, coach of the year, World XI and so on there is a surprise nomination for goal of the year. The candidate is Glentoran F.C. player Matty Burrows who scored a wonder goal for his club against Northern Ireland rivals Portadown. I lived in Belfast during the 1960s, just two streets away from the Oval where The Glens play and my dad turned out for them in his youth. The side has produced some great footballers including Danny Blanchflower, Peter Doherty, Bertie Peacock, Billy Bingham, Jimmy McIlroy, Terry Conroy, Tommy Jackson and Tommy Cassidy. Tonight could be another glorious moment in The Glens proud history. Here’s Burrows’ wonder goal.

Bible and Culture: Bible Year 2011 (5)

emilia foxHonestly, this isn’t just an excuse to post a picture of Emilia Fox. Ms Fox was one of the actors who took part in the Readings from the King James Bible on Radio 4 yesterday. As part of the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the KJV the BBC has been running a series of programmes on the Bible with a particular emphasis on its cultural significance. You can download the readings from the BBC website but you will need to get a move on as they are only available for seven days.

A few bloggers have raised concerns about the focus on the cultural significance of the KJV, arguing that this detracts from encountering the Bible as relevant and significant for people’s lives today and I posted about that in Mythbusting. Others are much more positive about the cultural dimension and are also well worth reading. Maggi Dawn has written a post on the BBC programmes and her book Writing on the Wall explores the impact of the Bible on our culture.

Jonathan Evens has written a short story The New Dark Ages which he is publishing in parts on his blog. I’m grateful to Jonathan for sending me an advanced copy and it is a fascinating and thought provoking reflection on the damage caused by forgetting our cultural heritage, not least the Bible. A character in the story, journalist Don Wolf, writes:
Culture, to be preserved, must be lived and breathed in order that it fertilises future creativity and learning. Too much of our current culture is already blind to the extent to which it utilises and is informed by past culture. We think and act as though we emerge from the womb as fully formed independent individuals with no debt to nurture, yet our every thought and word and action is inevitably and unconsciously predicated on some past learning.
This year, we celebrated a cultural artefact – the 1611 King James Version Bible – which is among those artefacts that will shortly be lost from sight should this dark blight on our culture continue its relentless progress. When this Bible is lost from sight, we will not only lose the artefact itself but all that it has contributed to our culture in terms of imagery, story, phraseology and much, much more.
From my own point of view the opportunity to listen to Emilia Fox’s voice must be a good thing and the fact I can do that during my personal devotions makes it even better.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

World Cup Antarctic 2026

Rumours are rife in football circles that FIFA are planning to award the 2026 World Cup to the Antarctic. This would fit in with the organisation's previously stated desire to see the game expanded into uncharted football territory. There are no stadiums in the Antarctic at present but that won’t be a problem as Qatar will be putting a job lot on eBay following their hosting of the 2022 tournament.

There has been no comment from FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter, though he is known to be keen to see the beautiful game go truly global. If Blatter plans to continue his presidencysnow footie2 indefinitely, then the frozen wastes of the Antarctic continent will be an ideal environment for him and his pals to be cryogenically preserved. Not so good for the footballers but that is a minor consideration and the Wags will be delighted at the offer of free fur coats to keep them nice and warm. Switching the 2022 Qatari World Cup to the winter was thought to be a good attempt at acclimatisation for the squads, until it was pointed out that the winter temperature in Qatar will still be about 25 snow footballdegrees. The mascot marketing strategy will also have to be rethought as it has been pointed out that there are no polar bears in Antarctica.

The only minor potential setback to Antarctic 2026 would be the melting of the ice shelves thanks to global warming. However, if FIFA want the game to cover the planet then at some stage they will have a tournament on the sea bed.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Sorry but this is cra... not very good

Apologies for the intemperate language but this is the new video produced by the Archbishops Council to introduce the Church of England. I am struggling to find one redeeming feature in the video. The music, words and most of the images reaffirm every stereotype of the Church of England. Who dreamt this up, who is it aimed at and who thought this would in any way make the church seem living, vibrant and attractive? And they spelt Church wrong in the opening few seconds!

The only good thing to say about it is that most people will have fallen asleep after the first minute.

Contrast with this rather irreverent but enjoyable video. Now why couldn’t the Church of England have come up with something like this?

h/t Frsimon and Changing Worship

Update: The Church of England video has now been pulled, I guess in response to the adverse reaction via social media. Thanks also to Mark Russell a member of Archbishops Council who took swift action.

Further Update: The video is up again without the spelling mistake but nothing else has changed, it's as bad as ever!

Mythbusting: Bible Year 2011 (4)

Several of my recent posts have focused on the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible and I make no apology for that. It seems to me that as this significant event is being acknowledged in the church, the media and wider society, it gives us a great opportunity to promote the value and importance of the Bible to our culture. Anything which encourages engagement with the Bible is to be embraced and treated as a gift not a problem.

bible readingHowever, I hope I have also sought to point out that what is most important is not a focus on one particular English translation of the Bible as a cultural artefact but reading the Bible in a translation appropriate for our own particular context today. I want people to discover that the Bible contains Good News for each of us, for our communities and wider society. This is certainly the focus of Bible Year 2011, which we are celebrating in Chelmsford Diocese, and of the many other initiatives across the country including Big Bible and Biblefresh.

There are several good blog posts drawing attention to some of the issues and problems raised by the King James translation and these are an important counter balance to some of the more effusive articles about the King James version.

Tim Goodbody raises a concern about the way in which the KJV has locked some people into an idealised "traditional" faith, holding back the church in mission.

Eddie Arthur has posted a couple of pieces on myths surrounding the KJV or Authroised Version of the Bible. Eddie and his wife Sue are Wycliffe Bible translators and he draws attention to fallacies about the KJB as an English translation and then widens out the debate from an international perspective.

What I find encouraging and exciting is that so much attention is being given to the Bible at this time and it would be a tragedy if we didn’t make the most of it.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Epiphany: Journey of the Magi

I quoted some T S Eliot over Christmas and thought I’d let him speak for himself at Epiphany. This is a recording of Eliot reading his Ariel poem Journey of the Magi. The poem was written after Eliot’s conversion to Christianity and confirmation in 1927.

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Introducing the iBible

Out in time for Bible Year 2011, the must have iBible. ‘It saves only the verses that apply to you. It even self deletes the verses it knows you don’t like.’

As the advert says ‘It’s guaranteed to enrich your iWalk with God.’

Alternatively, you could just pick up the Bible in a modern translation and read it. Lots of help and advice on how to get the best out of reading the Bible from Biblefresh and Big Bible.

We need a big picture: Bible Year 2011 (3)

Another message I missed in the midst of the New Year celebrations was Rowan Williams’s New Year message. In it the Archbishop reminds us that we all need a big picture to help us make sense of our lives. Taking the theme of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible,  Rowan suggests:
Whether you're a Christian or belong to another religion or whether you have nothing you'd want to call a religion at all, some kind of big picture matters. If we 're going to talk about a 'big society', that'll need a big picture, a picture of what human beings are really like and why they're so unique and precious. This year's anniversary is a chance to stop and think about the big picture – and to celebrate the astonishing contribution made by that book four hundred years ago.

The full text of Archbishop Rowan’s message can be found here.

On a similar theme I have organised a series of courses in the Diocese of Chelmsford on how we can explore ‘the big picture’ and details can be found here.

Details of other Bible Year 2011 initiatives in the diocese can be found here.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Stuck in the middle

Sad to hear the news that Gerry Rafferty has died. He is probably best known for Baker Street with its iconic saxophone riff but my favourite song is Stuck in the Middle with You which he recorded with Stealers Wheel. The song returned to prominence thanks to its use as a backing track to the torture scene in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. I remember listening to the song on the radio while doing my paper round in the early 1970s. Reports suggest Rafferty died of acute liver failure, a fate shared by too many of his contemporaries.

Retro-fitted grandeur: Bible Year 2011 (2)

Following yesterday’s post on the excellent BBC production The Story of the King James Bible a friend, Canon Martin Wood, drew my attention to an article in The Independent titled Battles of a Book by Boyd Tonkin. The piece was published on 31st December so may well have been missed by many gearing up for the New Year celebrations but it is well worth a read.

tyndaleThe article begins with an important reminder of the controversial and violent history that accompanied the early days of translating the Bible into English. It is easy to forget, as copies of myriad translations of the Bible lie unread on dusty bookshelves, that people like William Tyndale gave their lives to make the scriptures accessible to the ordinary punter or, as Tyndale would say, ‘the boy that driveth the plow’. 
After months in his fortress jail, he (Tyndale) went on trial and received the inevitable death sentence. He was strangled at the stake with an iron chain. Then his corpse was burnt. According to legend, the translator and reformer William Tyndale ended his life in September 1536 with the words: "Lord, open the king of England's eyes."
Tyndale’s prayer was realised with the publication of the King James Bible in 1611. Tonkin draws attention to something that many may not have appreciated, by pointing out that even when it was published the KJB employed a tone that would have seemed archaic in common parlance; he calls this ‘retro-fitted grandeur’ and comments:
In essence, the six companies ensured that the KJB was born an antique. They didn't make the Bible new; they made it old. Its celebrated majesty and sonority stem from a decision to ennoble the language with a melodic, otherworldy splendour. Note how Tyndale's "they were marvellously glad" from the 1520s becomes, in the much later heyday of Shakespeare and Donne, "they rejoiced with exceeding great joy". The KJB sounds archaic to many readers now. It sounded archaic to many readers in 1611.
As Gordon Campbell puts it, "the language of the translators reflects their conservatism". They use "thee" and "thou" with an old-fashioned enthusiasm which might have sounded strange on the teeming City streets outside Stationers Hall, where for nine months in 1610 a revising committee sat. Tyndale and his radical confrères aimed for the demotic language of street and field. The KJB crews retain much of that, but channel it into a new, refined and detached, language of pulpit and pew. Old verb forms such as "doth", "hath" and "saith" abound, whereas by the 1590s - in speech, at least - the modern endings would have become more common.
The article covers more familiar territory in reminding us of the cultural influence of the KJB:
Today it is a commonplace to note that the words and rhythms of the KJB and its source translations shape the speech of countless millions who never open a bible or enter a church. Somehow, the language of the 1611 version never falls from grace (Galatians 5.4) even if its message falls on stony ground (Mark 4.5). In a secular age where ignorance of religion goes from strength to strength (Psalms 84.7) among lovers of filthy lucre (1 Timothy 3.8) who only want to eat, drink and be merry (Luke 12.19), we know for a certainty (Joshua 23.13) that these resonant words endure as a fly in the ointment (Ecclesiastes 10.1) and a thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12.7) of the powers that be (Romans 13.1). They can still set the teeth on edge (Jeremiah 31.29) of those who try to worship God and Mammon (Matthew 6.24). But does this ancient book, proof that there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9), now cast its pearls before swine (Matthew 7.6), and act as a voice crying in the wilderness (Luke 3.4) – a drop in a bucket (Isaiah 40.15) of unbelief, no longer a sign of the times (Matthew 16.3) but a verbal stumbling-block (Leviticus 19.14) or else all things to all men (1 Corinthians 9.22) while the blind lead the blind (Matthew 15.14)?
However, Tonkin goes on to argue the greater influence of the KJB across the Atlantic:
What really marked a sea-change, though, was the acceptance of the "habitual music" of the KJB (John Ruskin's phrase) by Puritan writers and preachers quite out of sympathy with the king-and-bishop hierarchy that bred it. Soon, John Milton and John Bunyan would draw on the KJB: it colours Paradise Lost and The Pilgrim's Progress from first lines to last.
It crossed the Atlantic early in the 17th century, and came to fix the tones and timbres of American speech and writing even more firmly than in Britain. From Herman Melville to Walt Whitman, Ernest Hemingway to Allen Ginsberg, American literature could hardly exist without the pulse and flame of the KJB. Today, it suffuses the work of talents as varied as Toni Morrison and Marilynne Robinson, Cormac McCarthy and Bob Dylan – who, in keeping with the seam of radical prophecy that forerunners such as William Blake had mined from the Bible, told us that in changing times "the last shall be first, and the first last" (a direct KJB lift from Tyndale).
The piece has a rather sobering final observation which makes the challenge of promoting the reading of the Bible in 2011 even more stark as Tonkin concludes:
For anyone, religious or not, who cares about the continuity of culture and understanding, Gordon Campbell lets slip a remark to freeze the blood. A professor at Leicester University, he recalls that "When the name of Moses came up at a seminar I was leading, no one had any idea whom he might have been, though a Muslim student eventually asked if he was the same person as Musa in the Qur'an (which he is)".
"Let my people go" (Exodus 5.1), as Tyndale - and the KJB - has Moses tell Pharaoh. In 2011, we may need another kind of Mosaic injunction: Let our people read.
Reading Tonkin’s article I was left wondering how many of us would be prepared to go through what Tyndale faced in order to promote the private and public reading of the Bible?

Monday, 3 January 2011

The BBC scores again: Bible Year 2011 (1)

When the BBC gets it right it really gets it right. The Nativity, shown in the week leading up to Christmas, was a triumph and the Dr Who Christmas special was an excellent reworking of A Christmas Carol. There was also some nonsense last night about something called The Archers but I was busy listening to the football.

Then this morning Radio 4 broadcast the first of three episodes telling The Story of the King James Bible. This was high quality broadcasting, setting the religious and political context for the creation of what has been described as the ‘noblest monument of English prose’. Presented by James Naughtie and based at Hampton Court, the first part, The Commission, will be  rebroadcast this evening and the remaining episodes, The Translation and The Legacy, will go out on Tuesday and Wednesday at 9am. The series will also be available on iPlayer and podcast.

This is a great introduction to the King James Bible as we celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the translation and further testimony to the value of public service broadcasting.