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

  • Made me think...

    Yesterday I went to see the film "Suffragette" which was an enjoyable endeavour.  There was a lot in it that gave me pause for thought.

    The civil disobedience, beginning with smashing windows and escalating into blowing up pillar boxes and even attacking a residence was such a clear parallel with so many other similar acts that history declares to be wrong.  Kristallnacht, the targeted smashing of the windows of Jewish shopkeepers in Germany clearly motivated by xenophobia.  The 1980s letter bombs and blown up pillar boxes by Irish paramilitaries frustrated to the point of violence at not achieving their desires.  The arson of Welsh holiday cottages.  Or, indeed the IEDs and suicide bombers of our own time.

    Huge questions about when (if ever) such actions are justified.

    How did the suffragettes appear to ordinary, decent people of their time?

    Huge questions about how history is told - always from the point of the 'victors'... how might the story of the suffragettes be told or seen had the outcome been different?

    Do the ends necessarily justify the means?


    The suffragettes were arrested, beaten, imprisoned and force-fed.  I can't imagine ever being ready to face that.  Partly because I'm a rule-follower, I don't 'do' disobedience, fear of shame and embarrassment for others, as well as for myself, would dissuade me from actions likely to lead to such consequences.  This is a far cry from the people of our day who sit in the middle of the road and let the police carry them into vans, deliver them to clean police stations and either caution them or detain them overnight before letting them go.  These were women who lost their jobs, their families and their homes. Not nice middle-class peaceful protests, ugly, violent, sacrficial suffering.

    I find it hard to imagine any cause that could inspire me to do that... to lose everything and everyone that matters to me.

    I'm all for freedom of speech, in favour of rallies and marches... just not so sure about people who set out to get themsleves arrested almost as a badge of honour, whilst creating huge amounts of work for an overall over-stretched police service.


    I grew up very aware of the significance of what the  suffragettes had achieved, and was regularly reminded of my democratic duty: "people died to get you the vote".  I have no doubt that the cause espoused by the suffragettes was good and right.  I would never, knowingly, not vote.  So for all my questions about method, I am glad they did what they did.

    But what of other causes?  How do we discern which are motivated by 'good' and which are not?  How will history tell the story of our time?  It's easy enough to say that xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia or whatever it maybe is wrong... but that doesn't make it any easier to determine a healthy response.  Easy to say what governments should or should not do, less so for them to act.

    Definitely more questions than answers!  Glad I went to see the film.  Didn't really learn anything new in terms of facts, but it did give me lots to ponder.

  • Ten Years On...

    On Friday it will be exactly ten years since I bowed to peer pressure and began blogging.  The vast majority of those who encouraged and cajoled me into this form of self-expression have long since abandoned their own blogs, worked through and beyond social media, and are now in a more private phase of life.  That mildly amuses me.

    I have often said that the internet is a gift for people like me who are naturally shy, introvert, introspective and somewhat lacking in confidence.  It is sufficiently removed from real conversation to feel safe enough to express things, yet retains the potential (sometimes anyway) for others to comment.

    When I began blogging, no-one in my Dibley church had a clue I was doing so, indeed many of them barely used the internet.  It was a safe space to play with ideas for sermons, to share liturgies and to post what I felt were amusing stories about Baptist life in the area.

    Moving to The Gathering Place that changed, with lots of people reading my stuff, and the need to keep in mind that people would read my stuff, and would take it perhaps more seriously than I intended.  I now very rarely float ideas ahead of services and perforce am a bit more circumspect in what I share.  Maybe all of that is a good thing.

    During my cancer treatment it was certainly a boon having a ready-made space to post stuff suitable for public consumption, even if I did end up with a rod for my own back of needing to post daily, including my day off, as people worried if I didn't!  Overall a nice reason to have the rod I think.

    The last couple of years I've from time to time pondered abandoning this blog - partly because I eventually succumbed to social media, partly because I often don't seem to have much worth saying, and partly because a few things I've posted have caused significant offence to one or two people.  The reality is that ten years on I have less self-confidence and am more wary than I was when I began blogging.

    For all that, in ten years I have written just shy of 4,000 posts and I think only pulled about 4... 0.1% is not a bad figure I reckon, even if I still smart over at least a couple of them.

    In ten years I have received just over 3500 comments - despite the worst efforts of this blog platform - which suggests a high level of engagement with my stuff.  At various times there have also been email exchanges on some of the posts.

    The world has changed a lot in the last decade, as has the internet, as have I.  It is quite amusing to read the seemingly prosaic language of some my early posts, as well as interesting to see what I was thinking about.  If nothing else, it is an interesting 'social document' for anyone who cares to read it.

    When I began this blog it's subtitle was "ramblings, reflections and rubbish" before at some point morphing into "everyday adventures of a Baptist minister".  Each of these is a reasonable description of what it contains, and each is what it will continue to be.

    I'm not promising to blog for another decade... I wouldn't even dare to presume to be here to do so (with apologies to those who don't like talk of mortality)... but despite the hiccups and stumbles along the way, I'll carry on for the time being - and hope that some of it amuses, informs or even inspires others along the way.

  • A Prayer for All Saints Day

    This coming Sunday is, for those who follow the liturgical year, All Saints, and, as I said to our Musical Director last week in repsonse to his question we are "sort of" doing that theme this year.

    So, here's a prayer I just found whilst hunting for ideas...


    Eternal God

    You have always taken men and women

    Of every nation, age and colour

    and made them saints;

    like them, transformed,

    Like them, baptized in Jesus' name,

    take us to share your glory.

    from "A NewZealand Prayer Book" cited in "The Book of a Thousand Prayers" compiled by Angela Ashwin

  • Didache and Kerygma

    Once upon a time I wrote an essay in which I explored, among other things, the function of Sunday School as either didache (teaching) or kerygma (preaching), whether it is primarily informative or transformative.

    The last two Sundays my sermons have definitely been way more didactic than kerygmatic, but have hopefully given people something to ponder futher.

    It remains, I think, one of the challenges and mysteries of homiletics (sermonising) whether it is meant to educate and inform or to inspire and transform; the extent to which it is human endeavour and the extent to which it is divine revelation.  And of course, at its best it is probably all of these things.  And at it's worst it is either unsubstantiated opinion or erudite theory.

    This morning someone said to me that their brain was hurting a bit from the sermon - a lot of didactic stuff around predicated 'ego eimi' sayings in the 4th gospel, but that they had found a nugget to take away in what I offered at the end as a possible way of hearing the 'I am the way. the truth and the life' saying that is inclusive rather than exclusive...

    As a born worrier, I do worry that I have nothing to say, or that if I have something to say it is either too facile or too complicated... I have enjoyed researching the 'signs' and 'sayings', discovered and rediscovered some interesting stuff... and I hope that somewhere in amongst it was something helpful in glimpsing a little more of the nature of God through this mysterious and complex text that we know as the Gospel according to John.

  • Thinking about Remembrance

    This morning I've been starting to get my head into gear to plan our Remembrance Sunday service.  This will be about the fifteenth successive year that I've conducted this service - well, at least the twelfth anyway.  It's an important service to get "right", whatever that means, and I suspect I made a rod for my own back eons ago when I tried to find new and interesting 'angles' each year.

    From 'just war' to pacifism, from poetry to symbols, with themes of sacrifice and focus on the sayings from the cross, we have explored all sorts of ideas and avenues, remembered and reflected. 

    Perhaps then, it's not such a surprise that this year I sat down with a sense of dread to begin to plan.  It's a lot easier now, with easy internet searches, to find ideas and play with possibilities.  So, after half a morning watching video clips and reading British Legion, Poppy Scotland and Peace Pledge Union websites, I think I have the bones of something that will hopefully do whatever it is needed to do.

    Part of the planning has involved ordering poppy seeds - red and white - so I just hope the suppliers are trustworthy and not selling me something dodgy!!