Monday, 30 June 2008

ordination (2) - deacons

(deacons at the morning ordination service Sunday 29th July 2008)

Enjoyed two ordination of deacons services at Chelmsford Cathedral yesterday, although with both services lasting well over two hours I was beginning to flag by the end! In the morning Dave Chesney was ordained and in the afternoon Ken Ashton; two good friends from my time as Team Rector of Becontree West.

One of the highlights of my ministry in Becontree was baptising Dave with his young daughter Lauren and then Dave and his wife Sarah became godparents to our son Daniel. Dave will be serving as curate at Holy Trinity Springfield where my father served as vicar in the 1970’s and where I spent my teenage years. Ken was a black cab driver whose wife Eve worshipped at St Thomas’ Becontree and like Dave he came to faith through The Alpha Course. Our Alpha course was led by Ernie Guest, who was at that stage church warden of St. Thomas and is now vicar of St Laurence Barkingside. Ken will be serving as curate in the Walthamstow Team Ministry.

Among the others ordained were several Readers who I had the privilege of training and other students from The North Thames Ministerial Training Course where I am a member of staff. It was good to catch up with friends and colleagues from across the diocese and very encouraging to see so many gifted and committed people embarking on ordained ministry.

(Revds. Dave Chesney, Phil Ritchie, Ernie Guest & Ken Ashton)

Sunday, 29 June 2008

that's why I love football - euro 08 (5)

(Torres scores the goal that secures the cup for Spain)
Spain 1 - Germany 0 and Spain are crowned European Champions. In the end a victory for football. The tournament has been excellent, with so many great games and plenty of goals. Spain scored 12 goals and conceded only 3 and even their second team won. They maintained an attacking style throughout and proved that those who play the beautiful game really can be winners.
That's why I love football!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

prince caspian

Saw Prince Caspian last night with family and friends and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The reviews have been generally favourable and we felt it lived up to our hopes and expectations. I will need to give more in depth reflections later but some initial observations are that this is better than The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (and that was good). The acting is accomplished, with strong performances from the supporting cast; the plot is tight and well structured; there is plenty of humour; the characterisation has real depth and the CGI is more convincing.

In many ways this is a straightforward action adventure and the 'magic' is less central to the plot. The battle sequences are lengthy and at times quite graphic, particularly the single combat fight between Peter and Miraz, and the emphasis is on the skill, physical power and bravery of those engaged in combat. Only near the end does Aslan intervene and it is striking that the two things Aslan does are almost identical to two events in Lord of the Rings; the river suddenly flooding to wash away enemies and the trees 'waking up' and joining in the fight.

I did wonder whether the film should have been rated PG given the amount of violence on screen. Those with younger children might want to wait for it come out on DVD. I am doing some reading on violence in films from a theological perspective, prompted by seeing No Country For Old Men, and hope to post something on this soon.

There is an interesting theological question raised specifically in the film: why doesn't Aslan intervene earlier? Lucy even asks Aslan whether if she had come to him earlier fewer lives would have been lost. I need to go back to the book to see how this is handled in the text.

The film is long at 147 mins but the time flew passed and we all kept awake despite the film not finishing until 10:15pm.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

that's why I love football - euro 08 (4)

(well one of the German defenders was called Lahm!)
They nearly did it again. After running rings around Germany for most of the match and threatening to cause their third major upset in a row, Turkey finally succumbed and went out of the tournament. Here was a side with half their squad injured, half of the rest suspended and all the pundits telling us that they didn't stand a chance. But, for a glorious few minutes it looked like Turkey would take the Germans to extra time and who knows what might have happened. Sadly, Germany scored in the last minute and not even the come back kings could salvage the game.

It was thrilling stuff and the coverage was improved by an electrical storm which meant the BBC finishing the match with TV pictures and commentary from their Radio 5 Live team. The sound wasn't quite synchronised so we heard what was happening just before we saw it but it added to the spectacle.

"Here's how the game ended on TV in Hong Kong," writes Ravi Hiranand on The Guardian website. "Five guys in a studio listening in on a phone call between one of the presenters and someone sitting in the stands attempting to describe what's happened over the noise of the crowd and an awful mobile phone connection. Of course, it's all in Cantonese. Brilliant."

Another great game in a fantastic tournament. Germany 3 - 2 Turkey.

That's why I love football!

Monday, 23 June 2008

ordination (1) - priests

I had the privilege of preaching at the ordination of four priests at St Peter ad Vincula, Coggeshall on Sunday 22nd June. It was a bit of a daunting experience and also personally significant as I was ordained priest twenty years ago. Bishop Christopher (Colchester) presided and the church was packed with friends, relatives and members of four quite different congregations. Thanks to Fr Philip Banks and all those at Coggeshall who made everyone very welcome and for organising such an uplifting occasion.

Please pray for Tristan Chapman (Bocking), Judith Sweetman (Coggeshall), John Wigmore (Braintree St Michael) and Teresa Wynne (Takeley and Little Canfield) as they begin this new stage of ministry.

I did wonder about posting my sermon on the blog but decided against it. I know several friends and colleagues do post their sermons, however, it seems to me that preaching is an event involving God, preacher and congregation that has to be experienced rather than a text to be read. What do others think?

Next Sunday I will be attending two ordination of deacons services at the Cathedral but more of that then.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

that's why I love football - euro 08 (3)

They've done it again! With the last kick of the ball in extra time Turkey scored to take their match against Croatia to penalites. Given that Croatia had scored just a couple of minutes earlier and thought they had won, it was no surprise that the Turks were better placed for the shoot out. Croatia missed three penalties, the third saved by Rustu who had earlier made the mistake leading to Croatia's goal. That's the thrid time Turkey have saved the day in the last couple of minutes of the game. Their problem now is that half the squad is injured and several others are suspended for the semi final against Germany. Turkey 1-1 Croatia (3-1 on pens).

That's why I love football!
P.S. you may be wondering why I haven't posted on Ronaldo and the transfer saga - it's just too painful but I'm beginning to think that we would be better off selling him and taking the money.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

uncomfortable truths (2) - abortion

Here are the latest statistics on abortion published today (19th June 2008 source BBC).
  • The number of abortions among girls aged under 16 rose by 10% to 4,376 in 2007, official figures for England and Wales show.
  • In the under 14s, abortions rose by 21% from 135 in 2006 to 163 last year.
  • The number of abortions in all women rose by 2.5% to reach an all time high of almost 200,000.
  • Scotland has also seen a rise in the number of abortions with figures published in May showing there were 13,703 carried out in 2007 compared with 13,163 in 2006.
  • The number of abortions carried out has been rising ever since the 1967 Abortion Act - with just over 22,000 terminations in the first year.
  • In the past decade, the number of abortions in the under 16s has risen by 27%.
  • Some 90% of abortions were carried out at under 13 weeks' gestation and 70% were at under 10 weeks, a slight increase on last year's figures.
  • A total of 198,499 abortions were carried out in 2007.
  • The number of terminations carried out using the "abortion pill" was 35% up from 30% in 2006.
  • Around 1% of abortions were carried out on the grounds that the child would be born disabled.
But at the same time pregnancy rates have fallen.

What was very telling was the astonishment of the presenters on Radio 5 Live Drive who were struggling to take in what the statistics revealed as they reported the story.

Also very telling were some of the responses to the figures:
Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said the figures showed considerable progress in reducing waiting times for abortion, with two-thirds of women now having a termination at under 10 weeks. She added: "Contraception plays a vital role in preventing teenage pregnancy and earlier this year I announced a further investment of £26.8m to improve women's access to contraception and help reduce the number of abortions, repeat abortions and teenage pregnancies."

Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: "Much more needs to be done to equip young people to deal with the complexities of their personal relationships and to empower them to ask for high quality, user-friendly forms of contraception without embarrassment."

Gill Frances, chair of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, said: "We know what works to reduce abortion amongst teenagers. We need high quality sex and relationships education at school and at home and effective contraception. Primary Care Trusts must ensure they are investing in contraceptive services for young people."

My questions are:
Do these figures suggest that young people do not know about contraception?
Do many people now view abortion as an alternative form of contraception?

Monday, 16 June 2008

that's why I love football - euro 08 (2)

(pic: Petr Cech drops the ball and with it the cup)

This tournament just gets better and better. Settled down with a glass of red to watch Inspector Lynley (turned out to be a repeat) confident that the footie wasn’t going to be up to much. An occasional check on the scores confirmed my decision. The Swiss were beating a second string Portugal (Portugal already through and the Swiss hosts out) and the Czech Republic seemed to be cruising against Turkey (2-0 up). Then flicked over to discover the score had changed, Turkey had scored with 15 mins to go (2-1).

Had to watch the rest of the match (besides I’d remembered who’d done it in the Lynley mystery). Thrilling stuff with Turkey throwing themselves forward and the Czech’s trying to hold on to their lead. A draw would mean penalties but with three minutes to go something happened that I thought I’d never see. Petr Cech, frequently touted as the world’s best goal keeper, drops a simple cross and the Turks equalise (2-2). A minute later and Turkey score again (2-3). Then the Czech’s break forward and Turkey’s goal keeper gets sent off for pushing the Czech striker Koller after the ball has gone out of play. The whistle blows and the Turks go wild and who can blame them. Two goals and a sending off in the last three minutes; unbelievable!

Czech Republic 2 – 3 Turkey. An ITV commentator summed it up saying he'd not be surprised if a spaceship from Mars landed in the centre circle.

That’s why I love football!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

durham concerto - jon lord

My first sight of Durham Cathedral was while on a holiday at the end of the 1970's. The Cathedral, dominating the peninsula and towering over the surrounding countryside, was simply breathtaking and I remember thinking that if I had the opportunity of going to university then that's where I wanted to go. A couple of years later there I was as an undergraduate and I never ceased to be amazed at the building and its setting. In my final year I had a college room (Hatfield College) from which I looked up at the east end of the Cathedral; the only draw back being the bell ringers practicing on Thursday evenings when I was trying to revise for finals. They were three great years in which I never took for granted the privilege of being so close to the building voted as the nation’s favourite in a 2001 BBC poll.

A few days ago I came across Durham Concerto by Jon Lord. Lord was the keyboard player with Deep Purple and was commissioned to write the concerto to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Durham University in 2007. The piece was premiered by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the Cathedral on 20th October 2007. This is what Lord wrote about the experience:
‘My first visit to Durham in 2001 saw me standing open mouthed on Palace Green and then in silent awe as I walked into that formidable magnificence inside. Most of the themes came from the days immediately following my first experience of this extraordinary, imposing building. The feeling that the very stones and pillars themselves are imbued with centuries of prayer, with people’s joy, grief, despair, even anger, gratitude and hope.'

Saturday, 14 June 2008

that's why I love football - euro 08 (1)

Just about got over the frustration of there being no home nations sides in Euro 08. But perhaps it's for the best because judging by some of the football on display I think we could have been severely embarrassed. Yesterday was one of the most entertaining days of international football I can remember.

First up Romania v Italy (1-1): Open game with end to end action, the World Cup champions nearly humiliated and then a fantastic penalty save denying Romania an historic win. Fair result given that Italy had a perfectly good goal ruled offside.

Then with The Guardian's Barry Glendenning having declared Romania Italy the match of the tournament along comes Holland v France (4-1). Holland had already put Italy to the sword (3-0) and topped that performance by destroying France with some brilliant adventurous attacking football not seen since the total football of the Dutch in the 70s and 80s. Holland often flatter to deceive but not last night. 1-0 up at half time their manager van Basten put on another attacker and they sliced the French apart. It was a majestic, magnificent display and reminded me of the Euro '96 encounter between England and Holland (4-1).

That is why I love football!
(couldn't resist the photo of Henry who made my life a misery when playing for Arsenal)

Friday, 13 June 2008

re:fresh 2008

For information and details about re:fresh 2008 the Chelmsford Christian Festival running between July 12th - 20th go here

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

uncomfortable truths (1) - fathers

In 1996 I attended a course at St. George's House, Windsor and one particular lecture stuck in my mind. Professor Richard Whitfield presented a lecture entitled 'Our attachments as determinants of Performance' and one of the key conclusions of his research was that young males who had been deprived of attachment to a male parent figure were significantly more likely to end up committing criminal offences. At the time I thought this an important but uncomfortable piece of research and wondered why I had heard so little about it in public debate.

Whitfield's lecture came to mind during the debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and particularly the clause in the bill removing the requirement for a fertility clinic to consider the child's need for a father before approving treatment. There was some discussion in the media but it tended to be polarised and over emotional with little reference to relevant research.

And then yesterday Michael White wrote the following in his blog for The Guardian:
Let me confine myself here to what strikes me as one of the liberal heresies of the age: the assertion that children don't really need two parents, preferably their birth parents and preferably one of each sex. The absence that matters is that of a father, the male authority figure.

I'm not being prescriptive, merely suggesting that in Britain, more than in most European countries, so the statistics indicate, we have carelessly connived in the creation of a vast army of single parents, struggling to raise kids alone.

Divorced, separated, never married, for many it is a fast-track to poverty as well as stress, misery and angry kids. Bad things happen to still-marrieds too, but the odds are better.

How do I know? Well, for the same reason as you do probably. I see it every day among friends and acquaintances, young people my children know, where trouble can all-too-often be traced to trouble at home. And when you read the newspapers, how wearily familiar are the details?

From the names of the victims and accused, where they live, what they do for a living (or don't), how old granny is, where dad is (or isn't), there is a distressing bias towards the underclass, though evidently nice kids, whose families have hitherto prevailed against adversity, have a habit of featuring among the victims: wrong place, wrong time.

I can't help feeling that as a society we continue to duck an uncomfortable truth and until we are prepared to have an open and honest debate on the subject then no amount of targeted money or legislation (both of which I support by the way) is going to get us out of the mess we find ourselves in.