Sunday, 26 May 2013

My flirtation with heresy

I studied theology at Durham and my main doctrine lecturer was Professor Stephen Sykes who later became Bishop of Ely. One afternoon in a seminar he invited my fellow undergraduates and I to suggest different analogies to explain the Trinity. As each of us trotted out our explanations he reeled off the list of heresies we had just articulated. We ran the gamut from A - Z including: arianism, sabellianism, modalism, adpotionism, partialism, docetism, tritheism, ebionitism, macedonianism and patripassianism. Looking back I think the only thing we didn't cover was Rastafarianism. One by one our neat explanations were ground into the dust under the heal of orthodoxy. Is it any wonder I usually try and get someone else to preach on Trinity Sunday?

To be honest I don't really care too much how inadequate our explanations of the Trinity are, after all it is Almighty God we are dealing with so it's no surprise our accounts are going to be lacking. I'm much more concerned that we experience and live out our life with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Anyway, if you haven't a clue what I've been writing about, here's a useful little video to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

2 minute Pectecost

Great little summary of what today is all about from the gang at Busted Halo.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

A simple job made complicated.

I was taking a school assembly this morning about Pentecost. We began by recalling the Ascension of Jesus which a colleague had taught the children about last week. I then asked them what job Jesus had left the disciples to do. They responded straight away: 'Go and tell everyone about Jesus'. That was it. Of course doing it is another matter and that's where the Holy Spirit comes in.

A few days ago the Church of England published its attendance statistics for 2011. There has been a mixed response to the figures and the stats have been spun in different ways; viewed by some as encouraging and by others as evidence of continued decline. The British Humanist Association sought to use the figures to bolster their argument for disestablishment.

David Keen has done an excellent job on his blog of analysing the figures in a post entitled Church of England: Not levelling out. David injects some hard headed realism into discussions, challenging some of the complacency that was doing the rounds when the figures were initially presented. He has continued to post related articles on the issue of church growth and strategy including one today about Archbishop Justin Welby's address to the Diocesan Church Growth Strategies Conference. ++Justin's priorities are summarised as:

  • prayer and renewal of the church's spiritual life 
  • reconciliation, within the church and as an agent in the world
  • evangelism
As I read this straightforward summary, I think back to this morning's assembly and the children's summary of the task Jesus has given his followers: 'Go and tell everyone about Jesus'. How have we made it so complicated?

h/t anglican memes for the picture.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I could not bear being in my own head...

A few days ago Katharine Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury's daughter, wrote on her blog about her ongoing struggle with depression. Her blog post Hopeful Depression was picked up by the media and this morning BBC Breakfast ran a short piece in which Katharine speaks about her depression and what has helped her to cope. A powerful statement about the illness and a challenge to the church in how we support those facing this daily struggle. As Katharine wrote:
The church is the place where hope can be found, but this is only possible if the church is willing to accept that life is not always rosy. The stigma around mental health illness – of any kind, must be eradicated. The bible is full of people who screw up, who get miserable, angry, who hurt and who weep. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane found life a little too much to bear and pleaded with God.

Monday, 13 May 2013

When the saints

I am reliably informed by Whispering Bob Harris that today is the 75th anniversary of Louis Armstrong's recording of When the Saints go marching in. Blow that horn Satchmo!

 May 13th 1938, New York. Decca.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Teeth on edge

I heard some sad news yesterday. My wife was booking an appointment with our dentist and was informed he had left. Recently I had a very painful abscess under a tooth and he saw me twice within an hour of phoning the practice, carefully explained the problem and prescribed the appropriate treatment. There was no charge for the appointments and x-rays, though there are basic charges for my usual treatment. He was an NHS dentist. His practice has recently moved to new premises in the same village with the latest equipment, good parking, a comfortable environment and the clincher... free WiFi! What more could we ask for. He was brilliant and POLISH and as a family we are going to miss him. The good news is there is a new dentist at the practice and if she is anywhere near as good as him we will be very happy. She is also Polish.

We moved to our dentist's practice a few years ago because our previous dentist, who was British, had written to advise us that his practice was going private and he enclosed a load of bumf about our options for taking out private insurance. Call me old fashioned but I have a commitment to the National Health Service and am happy to pay my taxes so that people can access treatment free at the point of need. I recently had some gastric problems and again received excellent treatment from specialist physicians in a recently rebuilt hospital. The whole process from booking appointments, prepping for the procedures, the endoscopies and the after care were first class and again in a friendly comfortable environment that made an unpleasant procedure as bearable as possible. First class service on the NHS and don't ask me to list the number of different nationalities of those involved in my care.

A couple of thoughts. Yes, there are problems with the NHS. That's no surprise given the size of the organisation and the demands made of it. But as we seek development and improvement let us not lose sight of the jewel of the nation that we already have. Danny Boyle was right to celebrate the NHS at the heart of the Olympic Games opening ceremony. So let's stop selling it off on the sly piece by piece so that we have to pay again for what we already own.

And I want to say thank you to my Polish dentist for his friendly manner, his excellent treatment and for the contribution he has made to our family's well being and to the local community he has served. When I hear people moaning about immigrants swamping our country, read the pernicious propaganda distributed by UKIP and listen to politicians from the other political parties targeting immigration as the great ill of our age, it is my Polish dentist that comes to mind and I am ashamed of the quality and tone of our public discourse on this matter; it really sets my teeth on edge.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Legendary Journey

Looking forward to the British and Irish Lions roaring down under against the Wallabies this summer.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Thank you.

I knew it was coming. I had a glimpse of what it would be like over a decade ago when an announcement was made, although the decision then was hastily reversed, but the day has finally arrived. Sir Alex Ferguson has announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United F.C..

There are so many memories of triumph and despair that I’m struggling to put them in any sort of order. The greatest moment must surely be the treble winning last few seconds of the Champions League final in 1999 against Bayern Munich when certain defeat was turned on its head. ‘Football, bloody hell’ was all Ferguson could say when the ITV interviewer shoved a microphone in front of the incredulous manager after the final whistle as MUFC were crowned champions. The victory over Chelsea in Moscow on penalties for Sir Alex’s second CL trophy in 2008 comes close; the agony following Ronaldo’s penalty miss replaced with relief and then joy as Edwin van der Sar saved from Anelka’s spot kick.

The most recent moment of despair, setting aside the ups and downs of this season, was that final goal by Manchester City with almost the last kick of the last game of last season to snatch the Premier League trophy from Ferguson’s grasp. How satisfying that Sir Alex has chosen to bow out having taken the league title back in emphatic style to secure United’s 20th Premier League title and his 13th as United’s manager.

And here is my most valued Manchester United possession; a message from the great man inside a copy of his autobiography, given to me by colleagues as I left my diocesan role in Chelmsford to take up my new post as Team Rector in Great Baddow.


Thank you Sir Alex for so many great memories.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Leaked: Today producer's notes

At no expense I have managed to acquire the production notes and running order for today's Today programme on Radio 4.

6.00am News headlines: UKIP triumphant; everyone else pants.
6.10am Interview by Evan with the victorious Nigel Farage.
6:20am Education: Will national curriculum changes reflect UKIP's domination of politics.
6:25am Sport: Have UKIP snookered their opponents?
6:35am Immigration. Theresa May and Yvette Cooper say 'we agree with Nigel'.
6:45am Finance: Robert Peston speaks to UKIP's economic's spokesperson - Nigel Farage.
6:55am Weather: The sun is shinning out of Nigel Farage's...
7:00am News headlines: UKIP this, UKIP that...
7:10am Should Nadine Dorries defect to UKIP
7:20am Will David Cameron call an EU referendum now?
7:25am Sport: Gary Richardson on Nigel's runners and riders for Aintree.
7:35am Whatever happened to the Green Party?
7:45am Nick Robinson on why no one voted for anyone except UKIP
7:50am TFTD: The European Union is the beast of Revelation
8:00am News headlines: Bombing in Syria, Iraq & Afghanistan - the UKIP foreign affairs spokesperson Nigel Farage gives his reaction.
8:20am Evan interviews UKIP's glorious leader Nigel Farage again in case you missed it earlier.
8:30am Sport: Is it time for UK football clubs to withdraw from Europe? UKIP's sports' spokesperson Nigel Farage shares his thoughts.
8:40am Toynbee, Delingpole and Brandreth analyse the UKIP manifesto - when we can find the fag packet it was scribbled on.
8:50am Culture: Will Spielberg follow up Lincoln with Farage?
8:55am Nick Robinson on how UKIP have rewritten political history.

If you think this is a spoof have a listen to this morning's broadcast.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, 3 May 2013

Labour behind the label

The story seems to be disappearing from the headlines but the latest estimate is that over 500 people have lost their lives in the clothing factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The tragedy has raised the issue of ethical trading and forced people to ask questions about how their discounted clothes can be produced at such cheap prices. However, my guess is that odhakance the media circus has moved on people will stop asking the questions and go back to picking up their ‘bargains’. And it isn’t just the discount stores who source their clothes from factories like the one in Dhaka.

Labour Behind the Label is an organisation committed to supporting garment workers' efforts worldwide to improve their working conditions. Anna McMullen, a campaigner with the organisation, has written a hard hitting piece for CNN in which she describes some of the issues behind the clothing trade and the work being done to help address the injustices faced by workers. McMullen argues that it is the clothing brands that must shoulder responsibility for addressing the problems:
Business must stop just holding up its hands to say: "It is not our fault -- they bought it." The responsibility for ensuring that a product was made with human rights in mind has to fall somewhere, and the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights says that it falls jointly to states and mass corporate businesses to "protect, respect and remedy" human rights.
In short, the brands, not the consumer, are the ones who must take responsibility for the endemic problems that this industry faces.
Along with other lobby groups, Labour Behind the Label is calling on businesses sourcing their products from Bangladesh to sign up to a transparent building and fire safety scheme.

While I fully support the campaign calling for brands to adopt the proposal, I can’t help feeling that we consumers should not be let off the hook. The simple truth is that brands depend on the consumer purchasing their products. If we stopped sourcing our clothes from brands that refuse to place a premium on workers’ safety and employment rights, then those businesses would have to reconsider their position because the only language they understand is the bottom line of a spread sheet. Think about it the next time you pick up 3 T-shirts for a fiver.

I’m grateful to my friend Kate Gowen, whose cousin wrote the CNN article, for drawing my attention to the work of Labour Behind the Label.