By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

  • Silence in Blogland for about Half a Month

    (If you're going to plagiarise, you might as well plagiarise the world's all time best seller!).

    There will, indeed, be silence in this corner of Blogland for about half a month - next week I have to fit five days' work into three (so nothing new there) in order to be able to go to Manchester for three days to be introduced to the Doctorate of Practical Theology that will occupy my spare time and eat my remaining savings for the next six years.  I am very much looking forward to this, it has an element of 'pioneering' about it and it will be good to have some more formal exercise for my brain.  Then, after a detour to Sheffield for an ordination service and a service back in Dibley on the theme of 'Living Stones' it's back to the North West to begin my little stroll from Liverpool to Hull.  Sponsorship to date is around £600 and still a few more offers trickling in.  I am looking forward to the walk, to two weeks away from Dibley doing something utterly different - and to dipping my toes in the North Sea at the end of it!

    So, one way and another there will be no blogging for a bit.  I may revert to real journalling of some sort whilst walking - though paper adds mass to my pack - and there will undoubtedly be plenty to reflect on when I get back.

    I often wonder what silence in heaven for around 30 minutes would be like - no endless Alleluia's by the heavenly creatures, all those walled gardens for different denominations devoid of hand-raising, incense, organ music, Wesley, Kendrick, or whatever their thing is, lest the others might hear and realise they are not, afterall, alone...  would there be a sense of foreboding as perhaps Revelation implies?  Alas studying Revelation at undergraduate level served only to confirm one thing: it is a confusing book that I do not understand any more than I did beforehand (though I understand my confusion a little better!). 

    By contrast this half a month of silence is something I am looking forward to, whatever may follow on afterwards.

  • Summer Reading

    medium_bees_book.jpgI have just finished reading The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd, as illustrated.

    According to Amazon it's women's fiction, so maybe not of great appeal to many people who pass by this place - since statistically it seems that blokes blog and girls journal (and I like corny alliteration, even if it's only almost).

    Anyway, it was quite refreshingly different from a lot of stuff I read and without too tidy an ending.  For those who are interested in finding novels that show hints of spirituality or theology, one of the central icons of the whole story is a black madonna around which/whom a small group of southern American black women have developed their own cult (used in its theological not pejorative meaning).  The central character is a white teenage runaway seeking to understand and resolve issues in her past.  The bees and honeymaking form the backdrop to the story which is quite simple and at times gently profound.  Being around 350 pages and with an undemanding style, it's about the right for holiday reading - enjoy!

  • Quotable Quotes

    The old grey matter has been churning around and spitting out quotes, some of which I have forgotten the true origins of but which, in their own way, have influenced my thinking

    1981, Jim Stewart, Nuclear Engineering student (year above me) & member of college C.U. 'which heresy do you follow?'

    2004, speaker with forgotten name, Christian Praise, Leicester 'suddenly I realised that God might not like my theology'

    2003, in a Stanley Hauerwaus book and possibly quoting someone else 'if nothing's worth dying for, in the end you die for nothing.'

    Many of the C.U. members considered I was too liberal to be admitted to membership, but Jim seemed to be onto something important.  Whilst my theology is honestly held and open to review, there are parts where it would actually be nice to think that God disagreed!  I have many strong opinions, but would I die for them...?  It all lends a helpful perspective to the things we get het up about and squabble over.

  • I'm glad I'm not...

    ... an obstetrician or a medical ethicist.

    In the last few days a 62 year old woman has given birth to a son conceived by IVF, a friend has announced the birth of their fourth child, and I've conducted a funeral for a baby born so early that had he not breathed he would have counted as a miscarriage and not a stillbirth because he was so premature.  Today in countless clinics across the western world 'imperfect' babies and those conceived inconveniently will be flushed away as little more than tissue, in sterile laboratories clever scientists will dabble with genetics and mothers (and fathers) will weep as their hopes and dreams lie broken on the floor of delivery room 'A'.  Today in many nations babies will die of curable diseases, experience gnawing hunger or be abandoned on the hillside because they are the wrong gender.

    I'm glad these are not my decisions to make, to pronounce upon, to endorse or to condemn.

    I'm glad theodicy allows me to say 'I do not know' and, in the name of the child whose funeral it was (as translated by a book of baby names) simply to affirm, elijah shaun: God is God, God is gracious.  I don't have to be able to make sense of everything but part of the mystery of faith, and of God, is the unknowing and the knowing held together by grace.

    And I'm still glad I don't have to make ethical obstectric or medical decisions.

  • Six is for Symbols and Celebration

    medium_andyscake.jpgWell we made it to the sixth date with D+1 and we made it through the date, and then we ate cake, courtesy of the nice people at M&S (this is not just cake...).

    It was one of those services that could have been an unmitigated disaster but, by the grace of God, emerged into something meaningful and memorable, for at least some of the right reasons!

    Due to differing personalities and some resultant misunderstandings, I began by literally running, 2 minutes before the service began, to my house for equipment that the person taking today's service needed, lobbing it in the car and rushing back to the school as the service got underway.  There are various lessons for various people to learn from this, but thankfully humour and forebearance prevailed and we got there, well almost, in the end.  I knew the training for my little trek would come in useful as did my ability to generate powerpoint presentation ex nihilo during the service!

    Although the theme was 'symbols' and we did spend some time sharing ideas on Christian symbols - with some resultant confusion between signs and symbols and even between activities and symbols - the main thrust seemed to be the image of church as God's house, a house with doors wide open to receive the neighbours, as more and more are invited in.  I liked the imagery and the open-door metaphor which allowed some important ideas around potential merger and mission to be touched upon.

    By one of those wierd Holy Spirit thingies (now that phrase will annoy the real theologians who read this!) I had built my intercessions on the twin pillars of the nursery rhymne 'here's the church, here's the steeple....' and the 'hands/fingers' model from my Sunday School teacher days.  Admit it, you never knew these were pillars of anything!  Anyway, it seemed to fit in well with where the service went.  Our intercessions concluded with prayer for St "Smell's & Bells" who have made a decision to close, something that will take at least a year to work through, and for Revd NAM of D+1 who now moves on to pastures new.

    So we concluded our worship and shared cake, in honour of Revd NAM, and a cuppamedium_andycake.jpg.

    It was a time of celebration with Revd NAM and our friends from D+1, with a lovely buzz of conversation and some mingling.  We have come a long way from the tentative first date in February when it was dark and cold and we all wondered how this might unfold.  We have sung all manner of hymns and songs, been traditional and contemporary, creative and staid - and we we are still here, still smiling and now beginning to celebrate together!  God is good.

    There's a long road ahead, and the destination is far from clear but this was not just cake... it was celebration of God's grace, the Spirit's indwelling, Christ's resurrection ... a trinitarian perichoretic dance of joy and freedom reaching out to draw us in to the eternal 'grand chain' that is the Missio Dei, ... and it was also fun!