Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Headed across the road to Chelmsford Cathedral on Monday afternoon to be installed as a Canon of Chelmsford Cathedral by the Dean Peter Judd. I was collated by the retiring Bishop of Chelmsford a few weeks ago and this was the second part of the ceremony. The installation took place during Evening Prayer and I was delighted that family, friends, other Canons and colleagues were able to come along.

My canon stall is St Mellitus and the cushion shows Mellitus putting out a fire threatening Canterbury. Legend has it that he put the fire out by the power of prayer but the cushion shows him chucking a bucket of water over it; difficult to represent prayer pictorially I guess. I'm very pleased to have this particular stall as a member of the faculty of St Mellitus College. It was all very relaxed and we enjoyed a glass of wine in the Cathedral after the service before heading back to the Diocesan Office for some more refreshments.

Some of the College of Canons: Gordon Tarry, Dean Peter Judd, Philip Ritchie, Elwin Cockett (Archdeacon of West Ham) and Roger Matthews.

The best comment of the day came from my two children who wanted to know why all the Canons were in Gryffindor House and when we got our wands; they seem to be under the impression that the Cathedral is another version of Hogwarts!

Many thanks to Jonathan Evens who has posted about the service on his blog Between.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

a bloody mess

tom williams The shenanigans around the disgraceful behaviour of Harlequins rugby union club is a bloody mess. The basic story is that Tom Williams, a Quins player, burst a blood capsule in his mouth faking a blood injury and therefore enabling his team to send on a specialist kicker in the last few minutes of a game. The ploy didn’t work because Quins lost the match against Leinster and more significantly their ruse was spotted by the authorities. The matter was investigated and the player found guilty, banned for a year and Quins were handed a large fine of 300,000 Euros.

That would have been the end of the matter except the player was understandably upset at being the fall guy for the club. Williams appealed the decision and when he made it clear that he would offer full disclosure the Director of Rugby Dean Richards resigned admitting that this was one of a number of occasions that the club had behaved in this way. At the appeal Richards was banned for 3 years, the physio who had since moved on to work for England RFU was banned for 2 years and Williams’ ban was reduced to 4 months. The club had its fine increased and was required to pay up straight away. The appeal panel determined that it had no jurisdiction over the club doctor who was suspected of having cut Williams’ mouth to maintain the subterfuge. Can there be a more serious accusation in medicine than that a medic deliberately inflicted a wound to cover a lie?

Today Williams’ evidence has been disclosed as the full judgement of the appeal panel has been released and what has bechamiltonome clear is that this player was put under massive pressure by the club to limit his evidence and save the club, management and back up staff. The whole matter stinks and is somewhat reminiscent of Lewis Hamilton being encouraged to lie to race stewards by his bosses at McLaren after a F1 race earlier this season.

What a sorry tale. A young player pressurised to maintain a lie. A distinguished former international resigning and confessing only once it was clear the truth would come out. Medical professionals compromising their calling. The management of a great club with a proud tradition pathetically attempting to avoid the consequences of its miserable dishonesty. The authorities having to drag the truth out of all those involved. One of the most pathetic moments in the affair was listening to Jerry Guscott, another former international and BBC summariser, being interviewed on the radio trying to suggest that everyone cheats if they can get away with it as he sought to defend his mate Richards.

I really like rugby; I played it and take great enjoyment from watching it, but something seems to be going wrong and has been for some time. I remember watching an international player cheat blatantly at a crucial stage of a key match and being commended by commentators for his cunning. Earlier this year the South African coach tried to excuse one of his players deliberately digging his fingers into an opponents eyes. Bath RFU is mired in the scandal of several of its players being sacked or suspended for failing drugs tests or refusing to take the tests.

Footballers are constantly slated for their behaviour on and off the pitch and Rugby Union is often cited as an example that football should learn from. Just imagine if a football player had been asked to fakEscapeToVictorye an injury, then an injury had been deliberately inflicted and everyone encouraged to lie to cover it up. We’d never hear the end of it. To my knowledge it’s only happened once in football and that was in the film Escape to Victory, when the goalkeeper had his arm broken so that Sly Stallone could take his place. How far Rugby Union has fallen when it ends up as a poor parody of a second rate footy film!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

what's wrong with Aunty?

An extraordinary revelation today that the BBC has asked the newsreader George Alagiah to step down from his role as patron of the charity Fairtrade. Alagiah has explained the decision in a letter to Fairtrade and writes:

“My senior colleagues at the BBC have come to the conclusion that being the official patron of the Fairtrade Foundation is no longer compatible with being a high-profile journalist in BBC News. They believe that Fairtrade represents a potential conflict of interest which could undermine my impartiality.

“In the many years that I have been your patron there has not been a single complaint (that I am aware of) to the BBC, so you can imagine how taken aback I was by the decision.”

This ludicrous decision taken by the BBC is made all the more nonsensical when one considers the way the BBC indulges other presenters. Consider, for example, the case of Jeremy Clarkson one of the three presenters of the BBC programme Top Gear. Clarkson continually seems to overstep the mark in his role as presenter with offensive and political comments. A list of some of Clarkson’s indiscretions can be found here and they include several personal, derogatory comments about Gordon Brown and jokes about murdering prostitutes. I happen to enjoy watching Top Gear, although I find the constant attacks on those concerned about climate change and road safety rather tiresome.

The BBC does seem to operate double standards. Plenty of the BBC’s top presenters and journalists, including Clarkson, have been allowed to pursue other activities which could be regarded as prejudicial to their ‘impartiality’. Earlier this year the BBC dropped the journalist Carol Thatcher from The One Show because of an overheard off air comment which was regarded as unacceptable. I am struggling to understand why it is OK for Clarkson to describe the Prime Minister as a c**t to a BBC audience but Thatcher’s offence was deemed worthy of suspension.

Forgive me for a touch of cynicism at this point but could it be that the double standards pursued by the BBC with regard to its presenters is due to viewing figures? Top Gear pulls in large audiences and Clarkson is seen as key to the success of the show. He knows it and the BBC know it and so Clarkson can push the boundaries confident that no one is going to risk the wrath of the punters. The same could be said for the treatment of Jonathan Ross over his phone call prank with Russell Brand last year.

Now I’m not arguing that Ross or Clarkson should have been sacked, but I am suggesting that there is an inconsistency in the way the BBC treats its presenters. The demands made of some presenters in the name of ethical integrity are clearly flouted by others with impunity. The loser is a highly respected charity responsible for helping many of the most needy people in our world and a journalist seeking to support that work. Is this what the BBC has come to mean by a Reithian ethos?

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

legacy xs - skatepark church

David Keen has drawn attention to 'skate camps' in the U.S.A. which were highlighted yesterday on the BBC news. Legaxy XS is a Christian skatepark in the Chelmsford Diocese that has been running since 2001 and is known as a Skatepark Church. I'll let them speak for themselves.

Monday, 3 August 2009

laser love worship

ATF2 St Peter-on-the-wall, Bradwell-on-Sea, was the ideal setting for an evening of worship led by After The Fire. The band is in the middle of a series of festival gigs, but took time out to lead what has become an annual pilgrimage to the beautiful Bradwell chapel. I saw ATF at Greenbelt in 1979 when they headlined the festival along with Cliff Richard, Randy Stonehill, Larry Norman and a host of other Christian bands and artists from that classic period. The band became persona non grata at Greenbelt for a while after overrunning the curfew and finishing a barn storming set accompanied by a spectacular firework display.

This was a more low key affair with acoustic instruments and voices unaided by a pa system. The natural acoustics of the chapel provided all the amplification necessary, as the mixture of hymns, classic ATF songs and other material resonated from the ancient stones, complimented by bird song from the chapel’s residents. The worship took the form of Evening Prayer with familiar prayers and responses complemented by the music. There was a reflection from J B Phillips circa 1974, a Bible reading from Ephesians and a powerful testimony from Carly and Rob Lucas.

The Music framed the worship with the congregational singing of the classic hymns Love Divine, What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Here Is Love and a moving solo rendition of O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go from Rob Halligan. Other material included REM’s Everybody Hurts, Seven Days from Show of Hands, Coldplay’s Fix You, I Will Follow by Martin Joseph and Elvis Costello’s What’s So Funny. Then there were the ATF songs I Don’t Understand, Sometimes and the highlight of the evening a creedal version of Laser Love!

Pete, John, and the rest of the crew were all on good form, leading in a relaxed but prayerful manner and making sure that the worship never became just a performance. The evening was rounded off by a lovely walk back to the car as the sun bathed the chapel and the surrounding fields with a golden glow. 'Perfick' as Pa Larkin would have said.