On this rock …

Blackpool-rock-ePeter, the denier, the dissembler, the man who means well, the man who cocks up time after time. The man who sometimes gets a bit above himself and has to be given a slap. Homer Simpson in fact. You. Me.

Cut us in two and we have humanity written all the way through us.

Cut us in two and we bleed. Some of the things that help us to stop bleeding are platelets. These are not blood cells, but are broken-off pieces of huge cells (megakaryocytes) that lie in wait to be summoned to wherever they are needed to plug the holes in the pipes. Biological Radweld. We are broken off bits of the Divine. To be sure, we have other things in us too that are maybe not so Divine, but we are all sons and daughters of the Divine.

Platelets bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels. They aid blood clotting to stop blood seeping out of damaged vessels. Blood is life force, so pushing this silly simile a bit further, we stop the life force seeping out by plugging bleeding hearts, easing burdens, bringing delight. Blood brings iron, oxygen and nutrients. Blood disposes of waste products.

On this rock. Not the rock of perfection, superiority, excellence and aloofness, but the rock of humanity with its tendency to wander off like a supermarket trolley, and its ability to act as plugger of holes, mender of fences and bringer of jollity.

O admirabile commercium.

Posted in Biology & theology, Pastoralia | 2 Comments

Doctrine of the fall

The fall

The fall

Ladies ‘fall pregnant’. Why? It’s a curious conjunction of verb and expectant adjective. Today’s Church Times describes Sinéad O’Connor as falling pregnant. Is it like Breaking Bad? What or where do they fall from? Do they fall onto something, or into something? Is it like tripping on the pavement and falling onto something they’d not noticed? And are they pushed?

Fr Richard Rohr uses the expression falling upwards to signify that only through falling, a kind of crucifixion in which one sheds one’s ego-driven obsessions, can one ascend to the heavens. Is this what happens to ladies who fall pregnant? I know that motherhood, like apple pie, is a state of grace, but am not clear why ladies fall into it. Is it like leaves falling after a glorious display?

Yet another of life’s perplexities.

Post script. SWMBO tells me that I should change ladies to women.

Posted in A great future behind me, Theology | Leave a comment

Still small voice of calm

galilee-3A homily for Proper 14. 1 Kings 19: 9-18. Matthew 14: 22-33.

At creation, the spirit hovers over the waters. The spirit brings order to chaos. In Holy Scripture, water, waters, the sea always signify risk, danger, turmoil, the tendency to entropy. We talk of being up to our necks, out of our depths, going under.

Elijah was in it up to his neck. His personal circumstances were to say the least a bit sticky. He found the spirit of wisdom not in the noise, the storm, the wind, but in the silence.

Life is a bit sticky. We fall out with people, sometimes their fault, sometimes ours, usually both. We struggle with fractious families, tedious jobs, unyielding rules, unreasonable expectations, addictions, and more. Will we find wisdom in more noise, more words, more busy-ness? Will we find wisdom in a bit of solitude and silence? How can we hear the still small voice if we crowd it out with noise and crackle? The spirit came to the disciples as they were in it up their necks. Calming wisdom bringing order to disorder, cosmos to chaos.

Sit back. Silent. Still. Perhaps the answer to the question the Lord asked of Elijah will become clearer to you.

What are you doing here?

Posted in Inner kingdom, Theology | 1 Comment

Making waves

4604300082_a0f1293f46Baroness Warsi has been hitting nails and nerves with her comments about public school toffs in the UK cabinet.

It puts me in mind of 1969, a new boy at Cambridge. Students from public schools were at home from day one. College was simply more of what they’d been used to at school. There were quads, courts, chapels, libraries. There were common rooms, ‘screens’ and ‘staircases’. There were gowns, gyps and bedders (no, not like that). There were shared toilets and no hot water. For these boys, the  jargon, the culture and the ethos were just more of the boring same-old-same-old.

For me, it was exotic and exciting and romantic. And not a little daunting. More daunting still was my reaction to noticing the ennui of the posh boys. It took some effort not to be cowed by it and them, and their tiresome efforts to mimic a northern accent so that I could feel at home.

Despite this, it was membership of an élite club. Or so I thought.

I guess the atmosphere at Westminster is the next step on the ladder from public school and Oxbridge. Despite the influx of women, I don’t suppose it’s changed much. In fact, maybe because of the influx of women the Hooray Henrys have become more hooray-henry-ish in at attempt to keep their end up, so to speak. All very silly.

I’m reading again The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott (Jewel in the Crown for TV buffs). Hari Kumar was ‘too English for the Indians, too Indian for the English’. Baroness Warsi comes to mind, and indeed everyone who is too big to fit into little boxes all the same and made of ticky-tacky that are manufactured for them by unimaginative apparatchiks.

Posted in A great future behind me, Theology | Leave a comment

Trespassers will not be prosecuted

il_340x270.433804045_renxWe’re going back to the ‘old’ Lord’s Prayer. When I announced this at a PCC meeting, there were smiles and several utterances of ‘oh good’.

The rhythm of the ‘old’ rolls off the tongue more easily. It’s more like poetry, and so is easier to say, easier to remember, and it more quickly becomes familiar.

The ‘new’ is neither one thing nor the other. It ‘modernizes’ some things and not others. The trouble with modernizing is that it needs to be done regularly as words and concepts change meaning. This strikes a blow at the idea of having a text known by all ages in all places, and it detracts from the notion that The Divine is immortal, invisible, in light inaccessible, the Ancient of Days – which must be true because we sing it with gusto. The new version retains hallowed but ditches thee, thy and thine. Hallowed is not in daily use, but thee, thy and thine are in many parts of England. Your will be done on earth as in heaven implies that it is not done in heaven, but might be one day. Give us today implies a grasping entitlement that excludes the sense of tomorrow and yesterday that comes with daily.

The ‘old’ form is that used in English-speaking Roman Catholic churches and many other denominations. It’s used in most schools that teach it, and that includes Shobnall and Holy Trinity. Because it’s an Anglican translation, and one that even then is used in only some Anglican churches, it’s like the membership song of a posh club. It excludes people rather than includes them. This matters at funerals and weddings and other big occasions.


If you prefer the new one, you can have it back when I’ve gone. Until then, enjoy trespassing.

Posted in Ecclesiology, Theology | Leave a comment

Conspiracy or cock-up?

Guy Fawkes

Guy Fawkes

I’m reading Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught Up with Rupert Murdoch by Nick Davies. It’s a relentless switchback of the apparently power-obsessed Mr Murdoch and his empire’s standards. It is at the same time gripping and depressing, two words that came to mind about Alastair Campbell’s memoirs of Blair’s government and Damian McBride’s of Brown’s (which left me feeling sorry for Gordon).

Chris Denning, a former BBC DJ, admits charges of child molestation. Rolf Harris is found guilty of similar charges. Jimmy Savile is condemned posthumously. Cyril Smith is accused, Danczuk’s book being another sad read. There are rumours, easy to find on the internet, that allegations could be made of other public figures, and that super-injunctions have kept them quiet so far.

We all have our problems. I don’t comment on the urges—addictions really—of all these people: we’re all in recovery from something, whether we recognize it or not. But I draw attention to one thing and it is this: the police knew something but did nothing until they were forced to. In Hack Attack we are told that the police hid evidence, or revealed it only very reluctantly, or repeatedly made light of it.

Is this conspiracy or cock-up?

Are we looking at secret societies of the rich and famous, or merely at rectal problems (‘can’t be a**ed’) in the law enforcers? SWMBO says that she has never seen anything more chilling than A Very British Coup by ex MP Chris Mullin (watch it free on 4OD) for a nasty combination of secrecy and malice used to cling to power.

In Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, Rudge wonderfully described history as ‘just one f**king thing after another’. That same sense of relentlessness accompanies these revelations. ‘A blow upon a bruise’, time after time.

As the rich and powerful become richer and more powerful, it doesn’t bode well. Is this really Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free?

Posted in A great future behind me, Theology | 3 Comments

Keeping an eye on people

Imago deiThe Mission office emailed us with ‘tools’ for keeping track of people who come to church. There are detailed spreadsheets to be filled in for every Sunday of the year, spreadsheets for names of regulars, names of visitors, space for notes as to what they do where they come from, where they go to, and why they came or went. And more.

It’s reassuring to know that Diocesan workers have parish clergy in mind as they create forms for us to fill in. We only work half a day a week, if that, and so there’s plenty time to make notes on where Mrs So-and-so was last week, and where her grandchildren were the week before. After the blessing at the 9;30 Mass, as I leave for the 11.00 service elsewhere, I brush aside people who wish to talk to me in order that I can fill in the forms before the memory fades.

This is an effort, I’m told, to make my job easier and help me keep watch over my flock. The Stasi were good at that. A correspondent wonders how this sits with Data Protection legislation. I really can’t think why the anonymity of Cathedral worship attracts more and more people.

But I am puzzled as to why properly trained clergy should need to be told pastoral practice. I’m put in mind of Medical Educationalists who are supremely gifted in the ability to tell others how to teach, despite never having taught themselves.

Posted in Medical, Pastoralia | 1 Comment