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  • Just Wondering...

    An article here focusses on the potential for Dr Jeffrey John to be appointed as Bishop of Southwark and observes

    "The group’s [Reform] convenor Philip Giddings and Secretary Chris Sugden said the Church should not consecrate clergy whose doctrine is not fully in accord with the Church of England’s teachings."

    Now this is not a direct quotation so it may not be quite what they actually said, but I was left wondering how many Anglican clergy actually subscribe to all 39 articles...?

    I was quite struck by this opinion piece from The Guardian online.

    This coming Sunday we will be looking at the story of Peter and Cornelius, and I find myself wondering...

    HT BUGB e-news sweep for links.

  • Religious Broadcasting?

    Last night I watched episode 2 of Rev which I liked better than episode 1, maybe because I knew roughly what to expect.  I still feel it's a bit of a tired format with overdone cliches but it did actually make me laugh a couple of times as well as having its one or two deeper moments.  The overblown happy-clappy but meaningless glib emerging church style vicar, well yes, I did once meet him in Manchester... except he was a Baptist and he was a Methodist (yes, there were two of him).  I did wonder just how many viewers would understand the 'parish share' business and I was miffed at the allusion to large successful churches subsidising little non-profitable ones: my experience is often 'au contraire', but that may reflect a Baptist rather than Anglican context.  The best character must be Colin the lovable rogue who is the medium for the more profound moments; I found the bottom pinching scene with its real questions of how to handle people who don't fit the 'nice middle class' norm of churches quite striking, and the challenge that 'God loves him just as much as he loves you' one we all wrestle with living out.  Maybe, after all, the series is 'growing on me'

    Then it was a programme about 7/7 and the questions that raised for people about miracles, coincidences, fate, angels... and the opposite.  The commentary was fairly minimal, linking different speakers, and the range of perspectives varied.  Most of the programme concentrated on survivors and people who became involved in the rescue efforts; towards the end were relatives of people who were killed.  The programme did not offer explanations and managed to avoid any glib conclusions but it did allow people to speak their views.  For some the diversion of the No 30 bus past the BMA was a miracle, for others their survival was down to random decisions to move seats on a train, for yet another her death was down to taking  a train minutes after after her usual one.  No theodicy or 'God of the gaps' hypothesis was attempted, though some speakers offered their own, and the programme ended with one example of how a family had tried to make sense of a loved one's death by founding an eye hospital in India in her memory.  As the titles rolled it emerged that this programme was made by the religious broadcasting part of the BBC, which seemed somehow relevant - late at night, small audience likely, no easy answers to complex questions.

    What I am left wondering is how broadcasting of and about religious topics really works and what it achieves?  Scheduling comedy at 10 p.m. on BBC2 or narrative at 11-ish on BBC1 seem to say quite a lot in itself.  Still, at least there still is some on public service broadcasting, and for that we should be grateful

  • Tracing Divine Inspiration

    One of the things that always amazes me, though maybe it shouldn't, yet on balance I'm delighted that it does, is the way that through ostensibly random combinations I discern little links that must be the handiwork of God.  There've been quite a few recently... links from services I've led to services others have led, on seemingly unconnected themes; links between services and speakers at our West End festival events; links between the above and events in life and so on.

    Last evening's service centred on the thoughts of a French theologian called France Quere, and the themes picked out by the leader connected with the services of the last couple of weeks and with the circumstances of several of the congregation.  Humanly, you wouldn't see how there would be a trace of continuity between a theologians thoughts on suffering, euthanasia and human worth and those of a political editor reflecting on democracy in Scotland, let alone also connecting to a set of independently prepared services on (i) abundant life, (ii) healing in the Gospel of Matthew and (iii) freedom and independence.  Yet they were there.  Both in the threads that wove through the services, and in some almost identical sentences used in different gatherings.

    Anyone who is honest about their spirituality will admit there are moments when you wonder if you are at all in tune with God's Spirit; times when you suspect that what you are saying is just your own opinion; times when it is a slog to climb the metaphorical steps to the metaphorical pulpit fearing that your own emptiness will be abundantly obvious.  And then the miracle happens.  Someone tells you that your sermon spoke especially to their need.  Someone who has been invited to lead the intercessions has pre-written exactly the same sentence that you spoke.  You turn on the radio or television to hear your thoughts echoed (or sometimes anticipated!) by the God-slot.

    There is a hymn (BPW 101) that begins each verse 'Lord you sometimes speak in ...' wonders, whispers, silence, scripture... At my induction service last year I said it ought to have "Lord, you sometimes speak in things that make you go 'hmmm'" except it doesn't scan.  But that's it isn't it; the tracing of divine activity is seldom brash or obvious, more a hint of a glimpse of (in the words of Paul Fiddes) "the God who has just passed by."  (Tracks and Traces I think).

    Of course, trying to read France Quere served mainly to illustrate how much French I've forgotten (though I could work out the gist of the portion printed out for us) and how, to be a really good theologian you clearly need to speak fluent Greek, Hebrew, Latin, German and now French.  Which is why I'm simply a practical one, cos that's all done in the vernacular!  Fortunately the Holy Spirit can be understood in any language.

  • Reserving Judgement

    Another delayed post - it's that kind of a week.  I watched the first episode of the new BBC comedy Rev on Monday evening (when I was probably too tired) and failed to be impressed.  The 'official' reviews suggest it knocks the Vicar of Dibley into a cocked hat (or a bishop's mitre maybe) but I'm yet to be convinced.  The characters were, to me, entirely predictable and it didn't feel like any 'run down' inner city parish I've ever known, and I lived and worked in one in Manchester and know many others in various (admittedly not SE england) cities.  There were odd moments that made my smile - but you had to be a minister or at least know a sprinkling of theology to appreciate them.

    It felt to me rather tired format, and it would be rather nice if we could move beyond the Church of England which, let's face it, is only one expression of British Christianity.  A raving charismaniac, a turn-or-burn fundie, a lovey-dovey liberal, a dour Free Presbyterian who wouldn't know a joke if it bit him, even a batty Baptist... anything but middle of the road C of E please!

    A few good moments such as the arrow prayers and the visitors to church who didn't know which way up to hold the hymnbook, but not sure that's enough to make a good series.

    I read a comment on one blog from a vicar who said it was true to his life, with all the characters he encountered frequently... an observation many of us made about Dibley (the series not my old place) in its day.  He may well be right... lots of churches have at least one loveable rogue, many have a know-it-all lay-person, not a few have a resident 'cassock chaser' and so on.

    I'll wait and see how it develops, afterall I wouldn't want someone to dismiss my church or ministry after one hour...

  • Divine Retribution?!

    Many thanks to 'wrinkly rambler' for updating me on life Leicestershire.

    Recently the Lord Mayor abolished prayers in council meetings (these were led, in some sort of rotation, by people of the various faiths present in the city) seeing them as outmoded.  On Tuesday of this week it seems he was on an official engagement, and when he stood up his trousers fell down... my contact asks whether this is the work of Ronnie Barker in his new role as Court Jester to the Almighty?

    Poor mayor, terribly embarrassing... but in the words scribed on the Scottish £1 coin, wha daur meddle wi me (nemo me impune laccessit).