Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Today we celebrate the life and witness of Simon Peter. The gospel reading set for today is Matthew 16:13-19 and recounts Peter’s insight when he declares Jesus to be the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi. At this moment of confession Jesus commissions Peter for his future ministry. I’ve visited the place traditionally believed to be the site of Peter’s confession and it is an impressive setting with a cliff face pitted with cultic shrines. The place is also the origin of the Banais, one of the sources of the river Jordan.

Peter When I think of Peter another place and building come to mind and this is perhaps my favourite church in the Holy Land. St Peter en Gallicantu is situated on the east slope of Mt Zion and is believed to be the site of the house of the priest Caiaphas. The views from the site are stunning and the building is beautiful, decorated with some expertly realised mosaics. Gallicantu means 'cock crow' and the church takes it’s name from the incident during Jesus’ last hours before crucifixion when Peter denied that he even knew the very one he had proclaimed Messiah (Matthew 26:69-75). In the courtyard by the church is a sculpture depicting the scene of Peter’s denial and the sanctuary roof has a golden cockerel which burns in the sunshine.

Cockerel The reason I find myself drawn to Gallicantu rather than Caesarea Philippi is that this is the Peter I more easily identify with; Peter the denier rather than Peter the confessor. Yet, at this moment of greatest failure I am reminded of the overwhelming grace of God because the story for Peter doesn’t end in the courtyard at Gallicantu. When Peter meets the risen Lord he is forgiven, restored and empowered to fulfil the calling he first received at Caesarea Philippi. So Peter is an inspiration, not because of his success but because of his failure and because God could use even someone like Peter to build his church.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

USB typewriter

Up and down the land in many church vestries and clergy studies still lurks that once essential but now obsolete piece of office equipment, the typewriter. Do not fear, for just as you were tempted to dump the apparently useless piece of outmoded technology comes news of redemption. So now we can cling to the past while embracing the present and watch as parish administrators despair and secretaries throw themselves off the nearest cliff. And there are still some colleagues who have never forsaken the typewriter, convinced that, along with the ubiquitous Filofax, it is an intrinsic part of one's vocation conferred at ordination along with the Bible.

The USB Typewriter is a new and ground breaking innovation in the field of obsolescence.  Lovers of the look, feel, and quality of old fashioned manual typewriters can now use them as keyboards for any USB-capable computer, such as a PC, Mac, or even iPad!  The modification is easy to install, it involves no messy wiring, and does not change the outward appearance of the typewriter (except for the usb adapter itself, which is mounted in the rear of the machine).  So the end result is a retro-style USB keyboard that not only looks great, but feels great to use.  

Marriage ( for @RevdLesley )

Congratulations to Fellows blogger Lesley who is getting married to Alan today. In celebration here is a short reminder of that other great wedding a couple of months ago. With thanks to Peter Cook and The Princess Bride.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Directions in a digital age

I took the dog for a walk this morning as we continued our attempt to map out the local area. I can assure my parishioners that I don't 'map' the land in the same way that Bramble does. As usual we got lost. Just an innocent left turn up an innocuous looking path and a few strides later we found ourselves disorientated. I have no sense of direction and the dog simply follows his nose, usually to the nearest message from a fellow canine.

Eventually we came to a clearing and two landmarks were visible above the trees, a church spire and a communications mast. Living in the birth place of radio there are plenty of masts around including one huge redundant construction visible from our bedroom which has a preservation order on it. The church spire is that of St. Mary's where I am Rector and the mast is in a field on the edge of the parish. So we headed for the spire and soon arrived home.

As I used the spire for our direction home I remembered that I had my mobile phone with me and I could easily have conjured up a map which would have displayed my current position and given me directions home. It got me thinking about the changes and challenges facing the church in the digital age.

For generations the church spire has been the most visible landmark in the area, a symbol of permanence and continuity in a rapidly changing world. Now the communications mast rivals it as a marker on the landscape. In some places churches have allowed a mobile phone mast to be sited on the spire or tower, usually for financial reasons, while others have steadfastly refused to succumb to the inducements of the communications companies. I'm not sure what I think about this, though I understand the financial pressures facing some congregations that have influenced their decision.

However, I am convinced of one thing; the church cannot afford to leave the digital world outside the Christian community. It is essential for the church's mission and ministry that we embrace the digital world of communications and social media if we are to engage with the realities of our age.

I'm writing this blog from my iPad, a wonderful gift from my friends and colleagues in the diocese when I left my lay education and training role a couple of months ago. This little marvel has 3G and wifi, applications for just about everything I need in terms of running my office and a plethora of tools and resources including the Bible and various liturgies. It doesn't replace key aspects of my role like listening, praying and speaking with people face to face but it does enhance a lot of what I do.

So my question is this: Are we going to keep the digital world at arms length, on the margins of our life and witness, like the mast on the edge of the parish? Or are we going to embrace the digital realities of the world we live in both offline and online; placing the church and the Gospel we proclaim at it's centre, not uncritically but with Spirit led discernment and wisdom?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, 20 June 2011

From Rory to Rory

In celebration of golfer Rory McIlroy’s fantastic win in the US Open I’m posting a video of another Irish genius, the late great Rory Gallagher. Well did you ever…

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Born to run

Sad to hear the news of Clarence Clemons' death this morning. Clarence was the lungs of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and gave the Boss one of his signature sounds. I will always remember the first time I heard Born to Run and the sheer exuberance of the sax playing. The rapport between Springsteen and Clemons was part of the magic of the band and he exuded a street menace along with great playing. Thanks Clarence for so many great sax riffs.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Love at the frontline

John Harris has written an excellent article in The Guardian and concludes with a challenging question:
A question soon pops into my head. How does a militant secularist weigh up the choice between a cleaned-up believer and an ungodly crack addict? Back at my hotel I search the atheistic postings on the original Comment is free thread for even the hint of an answer, but I can't find one anywhere.
Read the article and check out John’s video of his visit to a church engaged in outreach amongst those living on the edge of society in Liverpool.


Monday, 13 June 2011

Signing the Gospel

This post was inspired by an initial misreading of a post from the Archdruid over at the Beaker Folk blog. The good lady had written a piece about her experience of worship at a church service yesterday and her bafflement at why they sang rather than read the Gospel. I thought the post was called ‘signing the Gospel’ rather than ‘singing the Gospel’. You can read her musings for yourself.

I want to say a big thank you to all those who give their time, gifts and energies to serving the deaf communities of our parishes through the ministry of Signing. I have over the last few years been involved in training for lay and ordained ministry those who have a particular calling to this ministry and they have challenged and enriched the wider body of staff and students through this distinct vocation. Part of my role with Chelmsford diocese involved planning various major celebration and licensing services in the cathedral and we always made sure the preacher submitted a text well in advance for the signers to work with.

All the main events at Spring Harvest are signed by a fantastic team from Signs of God who make the worship and teaching more accessible for our deaf sisters and brothers. I sometimes sit with the signers in my sight line and am fascinated by way they interpret the speaker. +Pete Broadbent once set the signers a demanding task as he launched into a discourse with some heavy theological phrases around the theme of eschatology during his Bible readings. The signers coped brilliantly  and I’m tempted to say they made it more intelligible for me but I might want a ministry gig in Willesden one day so I will say no more.

Yesterday we celebrated Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the rich diverse multitude of people gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2). One feature of that great event was that people of different tongues understood the disciples’ preaching in their own language. Signers have a Pentecost ministry as they enable those they serve to hear/see the Good News of Jesus Christ in their own tongue. I’m not sure what I think about singing the Gospel rather than reading it in worship but signing the Gospel is an essential work for the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

To make things new that never were

We name you wind, power, force, and then,
imaginatively, ‘Third Person.’
We name you and you blow…
blow hard,
blow cold,
blow hot,
blow strong,
blow gentle,
blow new…
Blowing the world out of nothing to abundance,
blowing the church out of despair to new life,
blowing little David from shepherd boy to messiah,
blowing to make all things new that never were.
So blow this day, wind,
blow here and there, power,
blow even us, force,
Rush us beyond ourselves,
Rush us beyond our hopes,
Rush us beyond our fears, until we enact your newness in the world.
Come, come spirit. Amen.

Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Speaking in Tongues

As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, a post of one of my favourite songs: Burning Down the House by Talking Heads from the brilliant Speaking in Tongues.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Rowan round up

I delayed blogging about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s editorial in the New Statesman because I wanted to read what he hrowanad actually written and then I wanted to wait for the dust to settle after all the  ludicrous coverage in press, broadcast media and blogosphere. Now several acutely observed pieces have been published on the subject and rather than repeat what has been said much better by others I want to draw attention to those I found most helpful.

The Church Mouse did an excellent job of examining what Rowan had written compared with the reporting from The Telegraph who broke/hyped the ‘story’. Mouse has also posted the five silliest things said about the issue.

Graham Tomlin has pointed out that the attention given to the Archbishop suggest that the voice of a Christian leader in the public sphere is still important.

Nick Baines argues that when the feeding frenzy around ++Rowan’s words has died down then the more reflective will realise that the Archbishop is raising questions and challenges we need to address as a society.

Giles Fraser also argues that ‘the voice of the theologian is back in the public square’ while suggesting that the attention given to the Archbishop is because of the paucity of argument coming from the political opposition. Giles and the others have pointed out that ++Rowan’s critique of government is also a critique of the political argument in general.

My own additional comment is that I’ve been disappointed in those Christians, including some bloggers, who have taken the line that ++Rowan has no right to speak because they don’t like what’s happening over other matters in the Church of England and Anglican Communion. This suggests that these commentators are so blinkered in their outlook that everything is brought back to their own issues and they cannot help but see all through the prism of their agendas. The Archbishop is speaking out for the poor, marginalised and fearful in our communities and I would have thought that was a cause to support rather than sneer at or score petty party points over.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Number crunching

I’ve been settling into my new role in the parish and musing about the various official bits and pieces of communication I have received. The Guidelines for Residents in diocesan houses makes sense, though I’m still waiting for someone to come and sort out the lack of hot water for a bath, having reported the problem a week ago. There’s the legal stuff like assigned fees and the Statement of Particulars as part of Common Tenure (see Ecclesiastical Offices (Terms of Service) Regulations 2009).

However, the piece of paper that really caught my eye was the details of Parish Share for 2011 from the Diocesan Office. The sheet sets out a breakdown of how much the parish has given so far this year and the balance left to contribute and it was enclosed with a letter of welcome. On the back is a breakdown by parish of the deanery Parish Share for the last 5 years. Now I don’t have a problem with this in itself, I think that the Parish Share is important in enabling the mission and ministry of the parishes and the diocese. What I do have a problem with is the fact that this is the only published measured assessment of a parish’s contribution sent to me as I embarked on my ministry. The message it communicated to me was that this was what the diocese really cared about when it came to measuring the effectiveness of my ministry or the work of the local church. I know that is not the case but that is how it felt.

Why no figures about the number of baptisms, confirmations, regular worshippers, vocations to various licensed and authorised ministry, weddings, funerals, pastoral visits, discipleship programmes, home groups, children’s and youth ministries, missionary support, outreach activities, community engagement events and the hundred and one other things that the local church is about? Now I know what most of these figures are because they were clearly set out in the parish profile that I received during the appointment process. But these figures aren’t published or discussed in the detail or with the same scrutiny as the amount of money a church gives to the diocese. So what does that say about where our values and priorities are?

Monday, 6 June 2011

Rob Bell comes clean!

'...I believe it's best to only discuss books you've actually read.'

Couldn’t agree more Rob and the rest of what you’ve said sounds good to me as well.

There's a brief account of a discussion some of us had in a pub about Rob's book Love Wins here.

h/t James Ogley

Anglican Patrimony

The Diocese of Chelmsford debated the issue of Women Bishops on Saturday and voted in favour of the following motion:
"That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and in draft Amending Canon No. 30."
A following motion calling for more provisions for those unable on theological grounds to accept the ministry of women bishops was rejected.

I wasn’t able to attend the debate, however, I have read the Bishop of Chelmsford’s presidential address to synod. +Stephen’s theme is Anglican Patrimony and it is well worth reading through to the end. His concluding remarks are particularly pertinent not just to this debate but for others facing the Church of England at the moment.
But before the debate begins properly, let me finish by mentioning something even more important than this. Whatever the outcome of today’s debate and of the debate in General Synod next year, we will almost certainly be left without complete agreement, though make no mistake about it, complete agreement and consensus is what I am praying for. Therefore the question for each of us as we go home today is this: what shall I do with my disagreement? How we answer this question is of fundamental spiritual significance, because it demands of us two things: great love of our neighbour, a Christ like love that is willing to go the second mile; and also great trust. Do I trust that those with whom I disagree are still my brothers and sisters in Christ who in faithfully reading the same scriptures as me and inhabiting the same Anglican patrimony, have reached, in conscience, different conclusions? If I can see Christ in them and honour the decisions our synods come to, then there will be hope not just for the Church of England, but for the world. For our world is more divided and fearful and confused than ever; and it might be that in our day God is calling us to show, by the way we handle our disagreements, the love of Christ who is, says the letter to the Ephesians, “Our peace”. In his flesh he is breaking down the barriers between us (Ephesians 2. 14). May this be so today: for our church and for our world.
To which I can only add Amen.

John Richardson has posted his own reflection on the Chelmsford vote and the wider issues raised here. I don't agree with John's position but he represents a view that should be heard as part of the debate.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centred now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we our selves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed .

With thanks to Malcolm Guite for permission to post his Ascension Day Sonet. You can hear Malcolm read the poem here and there is also a brief explanation of the inspiration behind the composition. I particularly found this comment interesting:
For you have died, says St. Paul, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. In the ascension Christ’s glory is at once revealed and concealed, and so is ours.
Maggi Dawn's post on Ascension Day is also well worth a read.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

FIFA uncovered

Much has been said and written about FIFA, world football’s governing body, and the re-election of their indefatigable leader Sepp Blatter. There is a distinct stench of corruption around the organisation and several executive members are being investigated by FIFA’s Ethics Committee. Blatter has managed to sail through the accusations and revelations, refusing to acknowledge the depth of the scandals or any culpability on his part. In large measure the supine members of FIFA have paid due deference to Blatter and all but a handful have supported his coronation.

There is an excellent comment piece by Duncan White contrasting Blatter with Manchester United legend Paul Scholes who retired from football this week. Henry Winter has also offered some advice for the English F.A. who led a lamentable last ditch effort to prevent Blatter’s coronation from going ahead. Marina Hyde has done a great job in reminding us of the favourable tax status enjoyed by FIFA.

I make just two comments about the English F.A.’s late conversion to the cause of fair play and anti-corruption. Firstly, they all kept their mouths firmly closed while England still had a chance of successfully bidding for the World Cup, with the Prime Minister and a future king travelling across the globe to pay homage in Blatter’s court. It should be remembered how the F.A. complained when BBC’s Panorama ran a documentary exposing bribery in FIFA for fear of it scuppering England’s chances of bagging the prize.

Secondly, just look at some of the characters the English F.A. have been happy to countenance running English football clubs. There is a fit and proper test applied by the F.A. but it seems to be nothing more than a brief check on whether prospective owners have the money or the ability to organise a leveraged buy out. The F.A. has gone through a steady stream of Chairman whose main quality is an ability mess up anything they turn their hands to, from the farce that was the construction of the new Wembley Stadium to the cack handed attempt to block Blatter’s enthronement.

The badge on the England football shirt is Three Lions. If you look closely in the background you might just see a few donkeys and I am not referring to Tony Adams.

A while back I blogged about a possible campaign to have a World Cup held in Antarctica in 2026. I am pleased to report there is further evidence to support the idea that FIFA is contemplating such a move and here’s the story.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Be sure your sins…

Bramble, our recalcitrant black Lab with a taste for the chickens, had never encountered a cat flap until we moved to our new Rectory. He knows all about them now!



I meant to post these photographs yesterday in celebration of the Visit of Mary to Elizabeth.


The sculpture is from the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem. The courtyard wall is covered with the words of The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56) in 42 different languages.


The pictures were taken during my sabbatical in 2008.

Doug Chaplin has posted an interesting comment about Joseph in Luke’s infancy narrative.